The Milwaukee crime family is an American Mafia outfit based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This crime family was considered a branch of the Chicago Outfit, as all big decisions went through Chicago. The family’s most influential boss was Frank “Mr. Big” Balistrieri, who was greatly involved in the Las Vegas casino-skimming rackets. Today the family is nearly extinct with the Chicago Outfit gaining control over the illegal rackets in the area.
I use the term Mafia here because it is the commonly used term for Sicilian crime families. More accurate terms might be “the mob”, the Syndicate or simply “organized crime”. While only Italians (mostly Sicilians) could be “made”, Milwaukee was not above having associates of Polish and other ethnicities. I do use La Cosa Nostra (LCN) on occasion, though it should be noted that this is an FBI term and not how the members refer to themselves.
From Italy to America
Salvatore “Sam” Ferrara was born February 23, 1896 in Prizzi, Palermo, Sicily. His father was Gaetano Ferrara. He arrived in New York on December 1, 1913 on board the ship Berlin and met up with his cousin Matteo Accomando (my best guess) at 511 20th Street, Rock Island, Illinois. With him, also going to Rock Island, was Filippo Ferrara, who was married to Paterina Vallone (not with them). By the time he joined the Army in World War I, he lived at 147 Buffalo Street in Milwaukee. Sam was naturalized while in the Army. His petition witnesses on August 27, 1918 were Captain Ivy L. Reynolds and First Lieutenant Arthur Friel of Camp Custer in Michigan.
Nicola “Nick” Fucarino was born November 25, 1896 in Priczi, Palermo, in Sicily to George Fucarino and Rose Lupo. He sailed to New York on the SS Mendoza and arrived on August 15, 1912 in New York City. He went to live with his uncle Antonino (Lupo?) in Omaha, Nebraska at 1024 Caleb(?) Avenue. Fucarino finally petitioned for naturalization on April 16, 1947 and became a citizen on April 27, 1948.
Giuseppe “Joseph” Spero was born in Palermo on February 16, 1908 and was the son of (???) Spero and (???) Seidita, a sister of Joe and Frank Seidita. He came to Boston on March 15, 1921 on the SS Patria. He petitioned for citizenship March 11, 1937 with two redacted witnesses. January 10, 1938 he became a natural citizen in Milwaukee.
Michele Mineo was born in Bagheria on November 29, 1897. He came to America on the SS Belvidere and entered New York City on November 11, 1920. Mineo originally went to meet up with his uncle Filippo Montana in Utica, New York, but then came to Shawano County, Wisconsin and finally settled in Chicago where he was a member of the Joseph Aiello Mafia faction.
The Earliest Days, 1902-1913
Nunzio Maniaci arrived on December 19, 1902 entering the port of New York from Palermo. He would later be naturalized with Tony Bellante and Joseph Giulii as witnesses.
Vito Guardalabene, son of Giovanni Guardalabene and Antonia D’Acquisto Guardalabene, came to America in 1903, already 52 years old at the time. His children beat him to the new world — his son Angelo, 12, came on July 22, 1902 and was meeting up with his brother Giovanni Battista in Milwaukee. Giuseppa, 25, met up with Angelo on May 27, 1903. Vito’s daughter Santa never came to America. When Vito was naturalized, his witnesses were his son Giovanni Battista and Tony Bellante.
Giovanni “John” Alioto, a later mob boss, was born in Porticello di Santa Flavia, Sicily either on August 25 or September 9, 1888 to Giuseppe Alioto and Francesca Orlando. Italian birth records do not match his American identification. He came in on the ship SS Liguria through the port at New York on March 20, 1904 (aged 15). He would become naturalized in Milwaukee on September 13, 1926 at the United States District Court (Eastern District of Wisconsin) with his witnesses being John Busalacchi and Nicola Romano. He married Catarina “Catherine” Alioto (born either July 24, 1891 or November 11, 1892 in Sant’Elia, Sicily) at Our Lady of Pompeii Church on July 20, 1913. Together they would have several children, including Joseph and Angelo Alioto, and Antonina — who would marry future boss Frank Balistrieri.
Antonio Villarant arrived in America on September 29, 1905 aboard the SS Liguria. Villarant, from Prizzi, briefly went to live with his cousin Salvatore Venitore in the New Columbus neighborhood of the coal mining town Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania before coming to Milwaukee. Within five years, he would have his own home that he rented out to lodgers, including Joseph Vallone, Pasquale Migliaccio and Joseph Badami. (Vallone and Migliaccio were also immigrants from the small village of Prizzi.)
Giuseppe Balistrieri arrived in New York aboard the ship SS Liguria on April 12, 1906. He had been born in Aspra, Sicily on December 20, 1894 (making him 11 years old).
Antonio Albano arrived in America on May 18, 1907 aboard the SS Friedrich Der Grosse. On the ship’s manifest, he said he was meeting up with his uncle Vito Guardalabene in Milwaukee.
Italian-born Vincent Ferrara (listed as Joseph Ferrari on his death certificate), who had recently moved from Kenosha to Milwaukee, was shot July 4, 1907 by a sawed-off shotgun containing slugs, buckshot and pieces of a lead pipe. Ferrara was near the Milwaukee Country Club. Also hit in the attack — several minutes later — was another Italian, Dominic Morabid (or Moracad), who claimed not to know Ferrara or the attackers. Morabid said he was simply out for a walk and caught off guard. Inspector Riemer doubted Morabid’s story, saying, “Italians are sociable, and do not go into the country to walk alone at night unless they have a purpose.” Even more coincidental, Morabid had moved to Milwaukee from Kenosha only four months before. In Ferrara’s pockets were found a revolver, a stiletto and a razor. His body was moved into the street, where it was run over by a street car. When the police questioned other Italians in the Third Ward, none claimed to know Ferrara or Morabid. Italian Consul Conte said he did know Ferrara’s father in Italy, and he was the steward of an estate owned by a titled family.
The next night, Joseph Conley visited Morabid at the hospital, and confirmed to police that Morabid was from Kenosha. Conley had come to Milwaukee with John Ruffalo, who was looking for his brother Frank Ruffalo. After talking to police, the police believed that Ruffalo, Morabid and Ferrara all knew each other… and they suspected the men were luring Ferrara to his death, with Morabid’s injuries being accidental.
Joseph Vallone arrived in the United States on October 8, 1907 from Prizzi on board the ship Citta di Torino and went to live with his uncle Girgio Lercara. (He listed his father on the ship manifest as Giuseppe Cono Umberto.)
On January 21, 1908, Italian-born Giuseppe (Joseph) Arnone, 34, was playing cards with Peter Cakerello at 128 Huron Street when an argument erupted. The two men patched up their differences, but that night around midnight Cakerello fired a shotgun at Arnone, piercing his left side and putting him in the hospital. The pellets also continued on, going through a washboard and lodging into a picture of the Virgin Mary on the wall. Cakerello was taken to jail, claiming that he thought Arnone was a burglar. Arnone, son of Adam Arnone, died of his wounds February 11. Cakerello was sent to state prison for 25 years.
An informant later said that around 1908, a man named Succi or Sorce was killed by Pasquale Migliaccio behind the Detroit School on the order of Vito Guardalabene. Another Sorce (known as Dente D’Oro, or “gold teeth”) was killed in Cleveland on Guardalabene’s orders. This kicked off a feud between the Sorce and Guardalabene families, and eventually lead to Mariano Megna (who apparently married this murdered man’s sister) having his funeral at another funeral home. I am unclear on the details of this, because as far as I know, Mariano Megna’s wife was Anna Cefalu, not a Sorce. This is probably a reference to the murder of John Sorce.
On July 27, 1908, the Milwaukee Police captured Joseph Ruffino, one of the leaders of the “Black Hand Society,” who was also accused of being a manufacturer of bombs, a murderer and a white slave agent. Also arrested was his wife, Sandina Ruffino. Chicago police had been looking for the Ruffinos since July 15, when Joseph’s brother Francesco took Enrichetta Vaccarina, 21, to Rochester to kill her, allegedly because she knew too much about their murder of a wealthy Sicilian in San Giuseppe Iato who had refused to give in to their blackmail attempts. (Francesco had told Vaccarina that she was being taken to New York to be sent back to Italy.) Vaccarina had been brought to Chicago from Italy and put in a resort in February to be used as a “white slave”. Once in Rochester, Francesco threatened to slit her throat and throw her body from a bridge, but she escaped to police before the job was done. Detectives allegedly opened a trunk belonging to the Ruffinos and found two revolvers, several stilettos, three pairs of brass knuckles, pieces of a gas pipe, twenty bottles filled with bomb-making ingredients, dye and stamps for Black Hand letters. Milwaukee Detective John Normington denied having found any of these things, and said that, in fact, Joseph Ruffino was a college educated man.
Francesco Ruffino was held in Rochester on July 28 for keeping a “questionable resort” in the city, and was held on $1500 bail. Vaccarina was also held, with her charge being vagrancy. By July 29, the Milwaukee police suggested they would release the Ruffino couple, as Rochester authorities had not requested their transfer. Vaccarina appeared before immigration inspector Isaac Martin at Rochester’s central police station on August 7, with the result being her deportation. Joseph Ruffino was apparently convicted in federal court in December.
Joseph Faretta, 45, was shot three times by Fillipo Tomasello on November 27, 1908 — once in the groin, once in the base of the skull and once in the shoulder, which perforated his left lung. Fillipo and his brother Frank had been renting a cot from Faretta at 164 Detroit Street, when they got into an argument about Tomasello putting his dirty clothes on the cot (he worked in a tannery). After shooting Faretta, Tomasello fled and the police put out a search for him. Faretta, however, said he forgave Tomasello for his actions.
Arthur Bilek, citing the November 29, 1909 Chicago Tribune, notes that “Big Jim” Colosimo, Chicago’s vice lord, had “field agents” in New York, St. Louis and Milwaukee. Who his representative was in the Cream City is unclear — while likely an Italian, Colosimo had no known ties to the Sicilian underworld. Robert Schoenberg would also mention a Milwaukee outpost in Colosimo’s vice “ring”, saying that Colosimo would charge up to $400 for use of a girl. Schoenberg’s source is unclear.
On August 3, 1910, Italian-born saloon keeper Leonardo Loffredo, 45, was shot and killed. Loffredo’s nephew Matthew Solasonda, 23, wrested the gun from the slayer’s hand and beat him unconscious. Laborer Anton Tonacila (or Antonio Basili), 34, was taken in for questioning, arrested but found not guilty. Apparently, the altercation began after Tonacila hit Leonardo’s 11-year old son Joseph with a fishing pole, and Loffredo confronted him about it.
On Tuesday morning, August 30, 1910, Italian-born Antonio Navetta, 23, had his throat slit from ear to ear in his boarding house room at 283 Jackson Street. As many as fifty Italians lived in the building. $500 was also stolen from his room, and he had only received the money a day before from an Italian bank after settling an insurance claim about a work injury (he was hurt June 4 while building a pier for the government). Navetta did not die without a struggle — chairs and a cot were tipped over, and a table was broken. When detectives arrived, the body was still warm. Police would later arrest butcher Vito Guardalabene (148 Detroit Street), Joe Lamonico and two unnamed “prominent Italians” in connection with the killing. No one was charged. The informant on Navetta’s death certificate was G. B. Guardalabene.
Nine gun shots went through the windows of a crowded Third Ward tavern on Sunday night, October 16, 1910. The tavern at 210 Detroit Street, owned by Arcanzelo Christoforo was damaged but the dozen patrons inside escaped unharmed. Police suspected the shots came from two men who had ordered drinks earlier in the evening — five months ago, Mrs. Christoforo and her brother-in-law were shot at by these two unidentified men.
Vito Guardalabene: 1913-1921
A small bomb exploded on Saturday, January 25, 1913 at the home of Italian banker Vito Guardalabene, 164 Detroit Street. No one was harmed and the matter was not reported to the police.
The Ronzio Double Slaying
Gennaro “Jerry” Ronzio, 35, and his 60-year old mother Silomena were stabbed to death at 8:40pm, Sunday, February 10, 1913 in the kitchen of their home at 398 Barclay Street. Thomas “Tom” Turk (or Turck), who lived in another part of the double house (address 392), heard a scuffle but thought little of it. Patrolman Bruno Zillmer discovered their bodies the next day, slashed and stabbed repeatedly — Gennaro’s heart pierced three times. Zillmer was summoned by Turk after not seeing the Ronzios the next day. The Milwaukee Sentinel called the crime one of the “most horrible and utterly baffling murder mysteries”. Police initially suspected robbery as the motive. A nine-inch knife was found under Gennaro, leading police to think the killer wanted to make the scene look like a son killing his mother and then himself, but this ruse was quickly seen through based on Gennaro’s wounds.
By Tuesday, police considered the motive of revenge, noting that Gennaro’s wife Theresa Ronzio (alias Theresa Stagno), 24, had abandoned him and their three children (Anna, Louis and John) on July 9, 1912. The children were placed in the Home for Dependent Children in Wauwatosa after their father’s death. The police were also looking for a former boarder Andrew Stagno, 40, and a missing current boarder, 29, who went by the names of Sam Semsaicone and Albert Maggare / Maggiore. Semsaicone was a laborer with the Chicago and Northwestern railroad and was walking with a limp after getting into an automobile accident in St. Francis on December 30. Chief J. T. Jannsen personally took charge of the search.
The Ronzios had moved to Milwaukee from Scranton, Pennsylvania in October 1911. They obtained a small cottage at 375 Marshall Street with Gennaro finding employment with the Power and Mining Machinery Company in Cudahy. Gennaro was a member of the Tribe of Ben Hur (a mutual benefit society whose objectives were to provide life insurance benefits, to improve members socially, to provide entertainment, to aid in business and secure employment, to care for the sick, and to bury the dead).
By Wednesday, the police had still more clues. An unidentified attorney informed them that there were two more boarders they were not aware of also missing — men aged 40 and 28. Captain John E. Sullivan told the press, “We want the three men. There was some sort of meeting in the Ronzio home Sunday night, probably a secret society. Mrs. Ronzio undoubtedly retired previous to her murder. Probably she overheard something the others did not want her to hear, and was attacked. Then, probably, her son came to her defense and both were killed.” Men were picked up in Pewaukee, Sheboygan and Burlington believed to be connected to the crime.
Later on Wednesday, Captain Sullivan spoke to an informant who said he saw the missing boarder on Jefferson Street in the Third Ward on Sunday night, covered in blood stains. By Thursday morning, more suspects were arrested — this time in Minneapolis, Chicago and Buffalo. But Thursday evening had the police thinking about robbery again after a visit from the Ronzios’ landlord, Peter Cassel. Cassel, president and general manager of the Northwestern Metal Company, told the police of visiting the family on January 18 and seeing the old woman pay the rent from a brown wallet loaded with cash that she kept rolled up in a dirty towel. Cassel was with a carpenter and told the man “she was foolish to keep this amount of money in the house and that she would be murdered for it.”
Police released photos and descriptions on Friday, February 14, of Albert Maggiore and a new suspect, Giovanni (John) Severino, 21. Police elaborated on Maggiore, stating that he speaks only Italian and not a word of English. Circulars were mailed to every police department in the country. That evening, detectives Dolan and Arthur Burns were sent to Kenosha on the news that the two men had been seen there Tuesday and Wednesday. Half a dozen Italians in Kenosha, including a west side baker, verified that the men had been there. Maggiore was identified as a companion to an Italian man who was arrested in Kenosha in December for carrying a concealed weapon.
February 16 or 17, Kenosha officer Cyzak was involved in a shoot-out with Italians believed to be the Runzio killers. (The Milwaukee Sentinel is very faded… the Kenosha paper would be better for this part of the story.)
John Severino was arrested on March 10 and initially denied his guilt, saying he was at a movie theater during the murder. He had been hiding out at the home of Sam Perricone since the time of the murder. On June 23, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in Waupun. Severino claimed he had killed Gennaro, Albert Maggiore killed the mother, and a third man, Sam Mineo, was also with them. The three had met earlier that evening with Frank Alioto at a Third Ward saloon. After the killing, the men fled to the Third Ward and slept in Frank Gagliano’s saloon on a pool table. His confession took up over 120 pages, covering his life, the crime and how he evaded the law after the fact. Rumor began circulating that he accepted the prison sentence when the real killers, a Black hand gang, threatened him with death.
On January 24, 1915, Severino was transferred to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane after developing “demential praecox”, a violent form of insanity.
Mrs. Theresa Ronzio was finally found and arrested seven years after the murder, on Saturday, June 19, 1920. She was in Scranton, Pennsylvania using the name “Miller” and with a man who identified himself as “Ralph Izzo”. As there was no statute of limitations for abandonment, she was expected to be sent to Milwaukee for trial and questioning on the murder.
Joseph Molino Shot
Joseph Molino, 45, was shot at five times, with one bullet hitting him in the foot, while on the corner of Jackson and Buffalo on the night of Friday, April 4, 1913. The attackers were two men, whom Molino denied knowing, and he escaped by ducking into George Ehrle’s saloon at 171 Buffalo Street.
Felice Lazara, 27, of Waukesha was shot in the throat with buckshot on April 12, 1913 and collapsed on the floor of Teresa Corso’s grocery store at 160 Huron Street. He had just left the saloon owned by Frank Gagiano at the corner of Huron and Jefferon. Police made a raid of everyone in the vicinity and arrested 27 men, including Italian banker and “king of Little Italy” Vito Guardalabene, 62, and his son Sam, 35. Guardalabene was represented by attorney Erwin G. Wurster.
Wurster filed a write of habeas corpus in order to have Guardalabene freed, but the police did not comply with his action. This lead to contempt proceedings against Police Chief John T. Janssen, Captain of Detectives John T. Sullivan and Stationkeeper William Paulus. By April 18, the contempt proceedings were called off when Judge O. T. Williams ruled that the writ was not properly drawn and served.
John Sorce, 25, was shot on August 24, 1913 after being ambushed in front of his home at 156 Detroit Street. He was walking to the saloon of Joseph Balistrieri (corner of Jackson and Detroit) for a can of beer when he was shot. Speculation around town was that the murder was somehow connected to the killing of Dominic Leone, whom Sorce was a good friend with. After the death of Sorce, the police started a new method of investigation: all suspects, no matter how unlikely, were measured and photographed. Due to the Italian community’s reluctance to “rat” out their own people, the police found this the only way to keep on top of the endless violence. (An informant later said a Sorce was killed on the orders of Guardalabene and the triggerman was Pasquale Migliaccio. This was probably that murder.)
Frank Maretta (sometimes written Manette), 21 or 23 years old, entered a Waukesha tobacco store on White Rock Avenue on September 7, 1913 while his friend waited in the car. When he exited, he saw his friend talking to three Italians, so he went over to join them. Somehow, a gunfight broke out and Maretta found himself in a duel where he was shot. Charles Schruth witnessed the shooting and chased the getaway car, but stopped when they fired upon him. He then informed the sheriff. Milwaukee police said they had no record of Maretta, and the likelihood of catching his assailants was quite improbable if they were as tight-lipped as everyone else in the Italian colony. Tony Cortoso, Maretta’s cousin who was with him at the time of the shooting, was held by Sheriff Gibson for not talking. Maretta, who was living at 307 Jefferson, died of internal hemorrhaging soon after. Milwaukee police speculated there may have been a connection between the Maretta murder and the murder of John Sorce.
G. B. Guardalabene and Michael Buso, 25, left Milwaukee to go hunting in Brown Deer on Thursday morning, September 18, 1913. They hunted for two hours and stopped in to Theodore Schweitzer’s saloon for lunch. They continued hunting after lunch, and while walking along the river Buso’s gun accidentally discharged, killing him instantly.
Frank LaGalbo, five-year old son of Joseph LaGalbo and Frances Crupi, entered the United States through Boston on October 30, 1913 aboard the ship SS Napoli. He was from Bagheria and was the nephew of “vice lord” Vincent Crupi.
John Pernice was arrested on November 14, 1913 for attempted blackmail and threat to murder. The district attorney ordered him released due to insufficient evidence. At the time of arrest, his three associates were identified as Calogero Oriti, Napolione Carrozzo and Carmelo Collura.
The first arrest of an alleged Black Hand member took place on Monday, January 5, 1914. Ernest Angelini, 109 Thirty-Fifth Street, was charged with misuse of the mails after sending a threatening letter to his landlord, saloon keeper Sam Debrozzo, demanding $500. The letter read, “We need gold. We must have it soon. You have been exempt until now. Five hundred dollars is the assessment placed against your name by the organization and unless we get it, beware. On the night of Jan. 5 place $500 near into the mouth of the big cannon at Juneau park. Place it there at 11 o’clock, and be careful to have no one with you. After you place it there walk south to Wisconsin street, then east to Milwaukee, then south to Huron street and your saloon. Members of our band will be watching you as you return, so speak to no one on the way. Above all, if you value the lives of your family and yourself, show no one this letter. The necessities of the Black Hand are dire and their vengeance is terrible. A Friend.” Debrozzo turned the letter into police, telling them he suspected Angelini. When Angelini was not home, the police entered his room and found handwriting samples — and also other letters he had written but not yet mailed. Angelini eventually confessed, but denied being part of a conspiracy and said he worked alone.
A bomb exploded around 11:30 on Tuesday evening, March 24, 1914 at the three-story residence and boarding house of Giusueppe Gardetto, 45, 217 St. Clair Street in Bay View. Children were thrown from their beds and 21 people in all were threatened. Mr. and Mrs. Gardetto, his mother and their two children (Dominic and Savino) were on the first floor. The remainder of the first floor was a saloon. Joseph Putolino, his wife and two children were on the second floor. Francesco Gambino, his wife and three children were also on the second floor. The second floor also contained single boarders Cognowzi Essio, John Zanetti and Charles Anselmno. And on the third floor was Joseph Zenobi, his wife and two children (Paul and Irene). Watchman Harry Comp at the Illinois Steel Company plant saw two men running away, and police had arrested three suspects, though they were expected to be released for want of evidence.
Gardetto, who came to Milwaukee in 1890 and was the second Italian to settle in Bay View (behind Carlo Basso), had previously received a letter in January 1912 from “Mano Nera” (black hand) demanding $1000 be placed under the Northwestern bridge over the Kinnickinnic River by February 5. He turned this letter into police. In March, another letter arrived demanding money by March 24, and this letter was also turned over to police. The letters had been mailed from substations on the north side of the city, leading police and the postal inspector to believe the threats came from Italians in the Third Ward.
The Italian community were celebrating Madonna del Lume on Sunday, August 9, 1914 when a gaspipe bomb went off, which was intended to signal the beginning of fireworks. Instead, too much black powder was used and a piece of shrapnel killed Giuseppe (Joseph) Pizzo, Jr., 23, 276 Jackson Street, who had been sitting on his front porch. The pipe was lodged in his abdomen. The sidewalk was also damaged. Anti-socialist Mayor Gerhard Adolph Bading, MD attended the festival as a personal guest of Vito Guardalabene. Guardalabene was the informant on the death certificate.
Italian-born Salvatore Sciortino, 26, of 202 Detroit Street, was ambushed and shot six times in the back on November 9, 1914. He had just purchased a stamp and mailed a letter at Frank La Piana’s drug store at 301 Jackson. Edward McCann, a switchman, saw the gunman step out from an alley near Rocco Coraggio’s saloon (corner of VanBuren and Detroit). He was young, wore a dark suit and a checked cap. An officer arrived in time to see the assailant flee, and fired two shots at him, but he escaped. Police said they did not think Sciortino was involved with the Black Hand. He had a brother in St. Louis and a mother in Sicily. Informant on the death certificate was Vito Guardalabene.
In April 1915, Giuseppe Nenapali (using the alias Albert Scorsone), Peter Randazzo, Tom Sarano and Sam Machi robbed Yugoslavian immigrant Charles Gabaj’s saloon at 820 St. Paul Avenue (his name sometimes being Carl Gebaj, he was born in 1877 in Slatina, Yugoslavia). The owner and five patrons were forced into a closet and $320 was stolen from the register. They were arrested in Chicago on April 15. While in the Milwaukee County Jail, they allegedly threatened the life of jailer Joseph Zuber and their trial date was moved up to Saturday, May 15. The four were sentenced to a variety of terms from 12 to 25 years.
Nenapali is an enigmatic figure, and his real name is unknown (he had also used the alias Liberto Natalie). There was an Alberto Scorsone who came to America from Bagheria in 1905 with his older brother Pietro and met up with another brother, Michele Scorsone, in Port Henry, New York. This Alberto Scorsone is of the right age, and being from Bagheria might have gravitated towards Milwaukee… but it hard to confirm. He was still living with Michele at Box 103 in Port Henry as of May 1910.
Vito Guardalabene, Nicola D’Acquista and Carmelo (Charles) Zarcone returned from a trip to Sicily on April 28, 1915 aboard the SS Guglielmo.
Joseph Gumina arrived in America on November 2, 1916 aboard the SS Patria. He was with his father, Gaetano Gumina, and they were going to meet up with Gaetano’s “nephew” Giuseppe Balistrieri at 176 Detroit Street.
Giuseppe Balistrieri married Benedetta Picciurro in Milwaukee on April 5, 1917. Benedetta had arrived in the United States on May 6, 1905, at age 6.
Frank Scaler, 19, was arrested for burglary on April 17, 1917 and sentenced to one year in the House of Correction.
Italian-born Pasquale Brisca, 38, of 369 Cass Street (where he boarded with Mrs. Carmella Pizzino), was shot through the left temple three times at the southwest corner of Michigan and VanBuren on the early morning of July 19, 1917. Brisca was walking with his lunch from home to work at the Electric Company when he got in a struggle with one man, who held him still, while a second man shot him. This was witnessed by Mrs. Michael McCann, who lived on that corner. Thomas Brown, who lived on VanBuren, intercepted one of the men and struggled with him for a bit before he escaped. Police suspected the killing could be connected to a quarrel that resulted over the weekend due to a card game.
The residence and grocery store at 168 Buffalo Street was bombed 11pm Sunday, July 22, 1917. This was also the residence of Sam Latona and John Leonardo and their families. Windows were busted out at Charles O’Donnell’s saloon (172 Buffalo), Robert Sommers’ residence (171 Buffalo), the Catalano Company (167 Buffalo), Edward Gleisberg’s pool hall (164 Buffalo) and John Manela’s residence (166 Buffalo). “We never got any threatening letters, and we do not know who could have done it,” said Marie Latona. Charles O’Donnell said it was the loudest explosion he has heard in the ward, “But we expect little things like that every once in a while.” Police suspected the Latonas knew more than they were saying, because the bomb was placed under the building where ten gallons of kerosene was kept, and this was not likely a coincidence.
Hasso R. Pestolazzi, chief truancy officer for the Milwaukee school board, said that “if the decent element in the Third Ward would clean out a small gang of cowards who are causing all this trouble, Milwaukee wouldn’t have any more of these outrages. There are a whole lot of cowards in there, jealous and suspicious of each other, and fighting all the time; and if the police or the decent men in the ward would go in and clean out about fifteen leaders, such outrages would stop immediately.” Pestolazzi declined to name names.
Death of Pasquale Ferrara
Railroad laborer Pasquale Ferrara, 31, was found dead on Tuesday, July 24, 1917 at his home (316 VanBuren Street) with his throat slashed in four places and once on his left arm. A razor was found in his right hand. More blood was found on the kitchen floor. Police questioned daughter Louise, 11, who told them, “Papa and Mama had some trouble last night, and he has not had supper home for the last two nights.”
The doctors who performed the autopsy, Harry E. Bradley and Wilhelm Becker, said the wound was such that it could not have been self-inflicted. Police Captain John T. Sullivan, on the contrary, believed it was suicide. “We could come to other conclusion than that Ferrara committed suicide,” Sullivan said. “We questioned all witnesses, and Joe Badami insisted that he saw Ferrara draw the razor across his throat. There is no flaw in the stories of any of the five we examined. They were questioned separately, and Badami’s story is entirely corroborated by that of the other witnesses. Ferrara had an excitable temper and had quarreled with his wife over money matters. He accused his wife of spending the family funds too freely. He was in debt in Sicily and was striving to make enough money to cancel the obligation. Both his wife and Badami say that Ferrara attempted to kill himself once before.” (Interestingly, Joseph Badami — also spelled Bedami or Bedame — had lived as a boarder with Pasquale Migliaccio, Joseph Vallone and Frank Pecoraro in the home of Antonio Villarante in 1910. What this means about Badami is open to interpretation.)
Following Ferrara’s death, Hasso Pestolazzi again spoke to the media, saying, “Only the breaking up of the congested conditions in the Third Ward will prevent violence there. One who is familiar with conditions there knows that it is not uncommon to find members of a family living in two rooms, or even one. Authorities should step in and condemn the shanties, forcing the inhabitants to move elsewhere.” He attributed Ferrara’s death to petty quarrels amongst fifteen leaders in the Italian community and said the underlying problem was immigration. “I have never known a case where a lad born and brought up in America was found to be the immediate cause of an intrigue. It is always those who have come over, bringing with them an inherited fear of the police. Many times the ‘go-between’ does not play fair and receives a stab in the back as consequence. In Milwaukee there is a large criminal class due to the fact that the Italian government, before the United States laid down its stringent immigration laws, sent to America only the lowest of its people — undesirable citizens. Some went to South America, but the majority went to North America. They are still carrying out the principles of their forefathers in doing their own punishing and they mistrust the police as much as they did in Italy. Although in America, the majority are still in their own colonies, and retain the customs of their native land. By segregating them, there will be a better chance of compelling them to imbibe American ways and modes of living. (Pestolazzi himself was born in Italy in 1867 — he married an American-born woman, Minnie, and had two children in Milwaukee just before 1900.)
A coroner’s inquest was scheduled for Friday, July 27. Prior to the inquest, District Attorney Zabel declined to have an opinion, stating, “I will wait until the coroner’s jury give their verdict and until the police send me the report of their investigation.”
At the inquest, the doctors testified, as well as the detectives and three boarders: Joseph Badami, Sam Orlando and Tom Manouso. Badami testified that blood on the kitchen floor was his — received when his hand was cut while trying to wrest the razor from Ferrara. While the doctors testified that suicide was very unlikely due to the nature of the wounds, they admitted it was possible if done in a frenzy. Deputy Coroner Henry Grundman ruled the death a suicide, and then Dr. Becker publicly changed his position, saying, “From the position of the wounds on the man’s throat, it seemed to Dr. Bradley and myself almost impossible for them to have been self-inflicted. However, after hearing the testimony of the three boarders and Detective Templin, I am inclined to believe that it is probably a case of suicide.”
Antonio Albano was naturalized in Milwaukee on January 14, 1918.
Around August 19, 1918, two Waukesha Italians were surrendered to the sheriff by bondsmen Frank Cayll and Tony Inzeo. The men had been involved in a “cutting fray” at Frank Koehler’s saloon on Whiterock Avenue.
The 18th Amendment (Prohibition) passed when Nebraska ratified the amendment on January 16, 1919. (Amendments require 3/4 of the states’ approval to pass.) Although Wisconsin held out for a while, they ratified the amendment the following day. The nation’s “beer state” would be no more within the year.
Joseph Scaffidi was arrested in Cudahy on January 21, 1919 for willful destruction of property and was placed on probation.
Nick Fucarino, under the alias of Nick Fort, was arrested in Omaha, Nebraska on November 22, 1919 for vagrancy, pimping and assault with intent to kill. He was identified by Mayor Edward Parsons Smith as the man who struck him over the head with a gun on September 28, 1919 during a race riot. He was held on $10,000 bond and released on bond December 8. What happened to him after that is unclear.
Federal Rubber Company employee James Scaffidi, Joseph’s father, was shot six times from behind on the evening of December 12, 1919. He was found lying in a ditch on Whitnall Avenue in the town of Lake (now the location of Mitchell Airport), his .38 revolver still in his shirt. John Medrow, Cudahy chief of police, investigated the murder for six months but never solved it. Scaffidi’s wife soon remarried. (James is listed as Vincent in his death certificate, residing at 626 Holmes Avenue in Cudahy and being 35, which seems too young.)
Frank Scaler was arrested as an inmate of a gambling house on August 1, 1920 and fined $5.
Vito Guardalabene, Little Italy’s crime lord, died on February 6, 1921 from nephritis at St. Mary’s Hospital, at age 75. He left behind his wife, Giuseppa Aliota Guardalabene. The informant on the death certificate was his son Angelo. The day before he died, the Milwaukee Journal noted that Guardalabene “has always been regarded as a political power.”
Giovanni B. “Peter” Guardalabene: 1921-1924
Peter, known as “the Prince of Little Italy” during his father’s reign, quickly asserted himself as a cagey and cable leader in his own right. Quickly separating himself from the sideshow manager he was in the early ’20s when he served as manager for John Giagianti, a moderately built coal shoveler known for his voracious appetite. Peter moved to strengthen his position and the organization he inherited from his father by surrounding himself with loyal and trusted aides like his brother Angelo and brother-in-law Matthew Deleano. Guardalabene insulated himself from the law by shielding his illicit activities behind a facade carefully constructed around the Monte Carlo club.
The Monte Carlo was a popular prohibition era nightclub known for its extravagant shows and extensive liquor selection. The Monte Carlo was frequently listed among the most flagrant violators of the law banning the sale of intoxicating liquors. On several occasions federal prohibition agents conducted high profile raids on the Monte Carlo failing at every turn to convince Milwaukee authorities to declare the place a public nuisance thereby banning it from operation. With each raid, the influence of the Guardalabene organization grew and the brothers continued to expand their operation through the 20s on into the early 30s.
Peter Cannalli was shot at his home, 266 Jefferson Street, on February 16, 1921. The bullet came in through the window and lodged in his neck. Nearby were his wife, young child and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Accetta. Cannalli survived, but they believed his left arm might have to be amputated at the shoulder. Police suspect the shooting was related to the recent death of Vito Guardalabene, speculating that there may now be a power struggle for influence over the Italian community.
Police busted up a lottery on Friday, April 8, 1921 run by Matt Delesano, 227 Bay Street, and the brothers Angelo and John B. “Pete” Guardalabene. They were raffling off a 391-acre farm, valued at $36,000 near Arena, Wisconsin. Posters had been displayed all over Bay View, as well as in the Third and Seventeenth Wards. Over $20,000 worth of tickets were found at the tavern of August Chiverotte at 300 Bishop Avenue. The Guardalabenes were told to refund all the money.
Jacob G. Laubenheimer was promoted to police chief on May 7, 1921.
The Sentinel on July 5 and the Journal on July 7, 1921, reported that Milwaukee now had 4,022 foreign born Italians. This was a significant influx over the past ten years and largely explains why so many were preyed upon by the Black Hand. Not knowing English and being crammed into poor living conditions with little recourse makes for an entire community of perfect victims. In 1924, there were 6000 Italians in the Third Ward — that comes to six hundred per square block! Two years later, Italian consul Angelo Cerminara estimated that Milwaukee had 20,000 Italians with 80% (the Sicilians and South Italian) being in the the First and Third Wards and 20% (the North Italian) being in Bay View. The Third Ward Italians had begun the migration to the First Ward (the Polish District) in 1918, in search of better housing conditions.
Future mob leader Frank Balistrieri was born on July 28, 1921 to Joseph and Benedetta (nee Picciurro) Balistrieri.
Antonio Albano was hired on by the Bureau of Streets and Sanitation on August 1, 1921.
Carmello Cicerello, 12, 237 Jackson Street, escaped from Waukesha’s State Industrial School on Tuesday, August 9, 1921.
Frank Scaler was arrested as the keeper of a gambling house on October 25, 1921 and fined $25.
Detectives Louis Dieden and Emil Hoppe were at Frank Vitucci’s tavern (222 Jefferson Street) on March 7, 1922 when they heard four gunshots. Running out the door, they found John Vacchiano with a still-smoking .45 in his hand, and he would not say why he had just fired his gun. Police arrested him, and Vacchiano pleaded with them, saying he had a wife and seven children at 170 Erie Street. Unknown to Vacchiano, Dieden spoke Italian and was able to overhear Vacchiano talking to his wife about killing junk dealer Nunzio Crispo in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Extradition was soon to follow.
15-year old Genevieve Court was found in a boarding house on Saturday, April 29, 1922. Brothers Henry and Peter Penna, as well as Philip Maltese, had brought her to Milwaukee from Chicago several weeks prior in order to prevent Court from testifying against them in an assault case. Soon, after returning to Chicago, she would be threatened yet again, this time by Chicago Mafia man Angelo Genna, a friend of Maltese’s. Genna was influential, and two Chicago police officers flatly refused to be the ones to arrest him as they did not want to take “any foolhardy chances” — he had been acquitted of the murders of Paul Labriola and Paul Notti within the past year. On May 15, Peter Penna was sentenced to a year by Judge McKinley, causing Mrs. Catherine Court to cry out “not enough” and she rushed to attack Penna before being held back by bailiffs. In November, Genna and Maltese would be convicted by federal judge James Herbert Wilkerson of intimidating a witness and sentenced to one year and one day in Leavenworth in January. Wilkerson would later on achieve fame as the judge who sentenced Al Capone for tax evasion. The convicted men’s attorney, Benjamin Epstein, filed a writ of error, but it did them no good. Chief Charles C. Fitzmorris held a banquet for all those involved in Genna’s conviction, as he had promised to do.
Questions remain: Did the Milwaukee hoodlums know that their Chicago brethren had brought this girl into their town? Who ran the boarding house and kept watch over her to prevent escape?
After being free from Waupun for only two weeks, Giuseppe Nenapali, 34, was murdered on October 6, 1922. Nenapali was seated for dinner with Joseph Sciortino in the basement of Sam Alexandro’s boarding house at 208 Detroit Street when eight shotgun blasts came through the window and blew his head to pieces. Police questioned people in the neighborhood, but nobody claimed to know about the incident and some even claimed they never heard a shot. An informant later told the FBI that the murder was carried out by Joseph Gumina and John Alioto.
The “king” of the Italian colony in Waukesha, Frank P. Cayll, held a meeting with thirty Italians at the court house on the evening of Saturday, December 2, 1922. He then returned home around 9:00pm, and as he walked up to his doorway the automobile exploded. The force smashed every window in his home and pieces of the car were found blocks away. Mrs. Cayll was knocked to the floor. Ironically, the gas tank was undamaged. Sheriff Clarence Keebler deduced that the bomb was timed, though the assassins were off in their calculations by mere minutes. Keebler was also unable to get Cayll to make a statement about any enemies he might have or what the meeting was about he had.
“Papa” John Alioto started Alioto Gardens in the old Third Ward of Milwaukee in 1923 at the corner of Clybourn and Jefferson. It burned down in 1929.
Antonio Albano was arrested on April 13, 1923 for violating the Severson Prohibition Act. The charges were dismissed.
Louis Sasso, Natale “Leo” Grasso, Vincenzo “Jim” Orlando and Paolo Latta (alias Gliatta) spent the afternoon of April 29, 1923 at Nick Flamingo’s house on Tenney Avenue in Waukesha, working in the garden. Shortly after they left, Grasso was shot five times and stabbed seven times by the other two men. One bullet severed his spinal column at the base of his neck, killing him instantly. Grasso’s body was found on the Waukesha Springs sanatorium grounds (run by psychiatrist Dr. Byron M. Caples) on College Avenue by passerby Joe Katzfala. Orlando and Latta were arrested at a boarding house on White Rock Avenue and two revolvers were found under a bed. One revolver, a .32, was found by Officer George Knipfel between the mattress and the springs. Dr. Herbert Sydow took Orlando’s knife and inserted it into Grasso’s wounds, finding the blade to fit perfectly.
The Milwaukee Cinder Company was incorporated on May 15, 1923. Giuseppe Balistrieri was named as president and his brother Frank was listed as secretary-treasurer. Later, for at least one year, Joseph G. Gough would assume the role of secretary-treasurer, with Frank assuming the role of vice president. Gough’s connection to the family, if any, is unknown.
Sam Proite was arrested October 21, 1923 for being an inmate of a disorderly house. He was fined $5.
On Tuesday, December 4, 1923, Vincenzo “Jim” Orlando and Paolo Latta changed their plea to guilty in the manslaughter of Leo Grasso. They were each sentenced to the maximum, ten years in Waupun State Prison. Sheriff Alvin Redford personally took the prisoners to Waupun the next day.
Antonio Albano was arrested again on December 29, 1923 for violating the Severson Prohibition Act. The charges were again dismissed.
Joseph Amato: 1924-1927
Joseph Amato succeeded Peter Guardalabene as boss of the Milwaukee crime family in 1924.
Nick Fucarino moved to Milwaukee in February 1924, where he took up employment at Migliaccio and Vallone Wholesale Grocers until 1930. (He became a self-employed grocer from 1930 until 1935.)
Pasquale Caruso shot Detective Emil E. Hoppe in the knee and neck on September 18, 1924 while being questioned in the tavern of Joseph Karlik at 696 Broadway. Caruso fled and would not be arrested until caught at Crown Point, Indiana in May 1930. After fleeing, the police searched Caruso’s room and found 11 shotguns and rifles and a barrel of moonshine. While in jail, Caruso sent a representative to Italian consul Angelo Cerminara, hoping Cerminara would be his attorney. The consul flatly refused, saying he did not approve of the detective being shot. At trial, Hoppe suggested Caruso get probation, which he did.
Harry DeAngelo was arrested for fornication on April 27, 1925. He was fined $100 and costs.
Shortly after 1:00am on August 11, 1925, an explosion destroyed much of the home and grocery store of Mrs. Marconi, a widow with five children, on Whiterock Avenue in Waukesha. Her neighbors, Kate and Mary Donovan, lost a wall that was “caved in as if crushed by a mighty hand”. Kate, 70, was pinned to her bed by a ceiling beam that fell, and Mary was bruised when tossed from her bed on the second floor. Police suspected a man whose marriage proposals were rejected by Marconi. The woman and her children denied this possibility and said they had no enemies.
Alberto Speciale sailed from Havre, France on the SS Suffren on September 5, 1925 and arrived in New York on September 14, 1925. According to the ship’s manifest, he intended to meet up with the Morici Brothers in Chicago.
Joseph Gumina filed his petition for naturalization on October 16, 1925. His witnesses were Antonio Regalbute (351 VanBuren) and Giuseppe Alioto (236 Milwaukee Street).
John Rizzo took up employment with J. I. Case Company as a mailer on December 17, 1925.
A 1926 study from John Landesco showed a possible reason that gang murder in Milwaukee was far less common than in Chicago. Besides the obviously lower population, Milwaukee actually enforced its laws and was apparently less susceptible to corruption — murder was possibly less likely to happen in Milwaukee if the gangsters thought they would actually serve time. Landesco found that 48% of all felony charges were dropped at preliminary hearings in Chicago; outlaw Milwaukeeans only received this benefit 17% of the time. 36% of felony cases ended in convictions in Milwaukee, while only 15% of Chicago cases did.
An informant later told the FBI that a sit down meeting was held in 1926 or 1927 between the Capone and Aiello factions in Chicago. The meeting was held in Pewaukee at the home of a man named Edwards or Williams (possibly Billy Willaims), who was a piano player for G. B. Guardalabene at the Monte Carlo. Allegedly, the meeting was not successful and ended with everyone throwing fruits and vegetables at each other. (The exact date of this meeting and who was there will probably never be known.)
Giovanni Speciale of Bagheria received a letter from the “National Chemical Laboratory” on January 13, 1926 from Milan. It read (translated poorly from Italian):
“We have sent you our general catalogue and trust that the products described there will be of interest to you. We hope that you will make your important orders with us. We particularly recommend our soluble liquor extracts, and syrups in powder concentrations. You can make Vermouth, Spumante, white wine and more by combining sugar and water. We can offer you a reduction of 20% on the marked retail price. The payment must be carried out by means of a cashiers check, postal money order, or a check of advance payment of the third party. Faithfully yours.”
Joseph Gumina was naturalized on February 8, 1926 after living in Milwaukee for ten years.
Murder of Alberto Speciale
After being in America only four months, Sicilian war hero and tailor Alberto Speciale, 34, 750 Jackson, was shot by two gunmen on February 17, 1926 at the corner of Lyon and Jackson Streets (in front of 736 Jackson). Someone phoned the police at 6:49pm and Sergeant Louis Dieden dispatched the ambulance, and also sent Detectives Tehan, Prohaska and Philipp to investigate. Shortly after, Dieden also went to the scene along with Detectives Fallon and Buetow. Tehan found five .38 automatic revolver bullets that had pierced Speciale’s body.
Bartolo D’Amato, a cousin who lived with Speciale, was found at 175 Lyon Street and questioned. D’Amato told the police that Speciale had been in the store on Lyon, but left to go to the Theresa Corso (Zingale)’s grocery store at 731 Jackson to buy a loaf of bread. Speciale bought the bread, left, and was shot across the street. Witnessing the shooting was Carmello Scaffidi, 14, 166 Pleasant Street, who was selling newspapers in front of 733 Jackson. The assailants were described by Carmello as two Italians wearing gray overcoats and dark caps. One of them was 5’6″ and the other 5’4″. Also witnessing the shooting was a second paperboy, 10-year old Franklin Johnson. The men’s footprints were visible in the snow crossing Lyon and heading into the alley.
Speciale was taken to the Emergency Hospital, and on his person was discovered one five dollar bill. Speciale left behind a wife, Anna, along with his parents Giovanni Speciale and Anna D’Amato Speciale. The informant on his death certificate was his cousin Bartolo D’Amato, who lived with Speciale.
Detectives Philipp and Tehan searched Speciale’s residence and found 35 gallons of raw alcohol and three cases of synthetic Three Star Hennessey, along with labels, bottle covers and bottle trimmings. These items were confiscated by the police. The landlord, Rocco Spinetta, was questioned and they found that Speciale had been living there since September when he first came from Italy. Also living with him was a brother and the brother’s wife, but they moved to New York before the shooting. In a drawer, Dieden found an envelope addressed to Antonio Morici, one of two wholesale grocers from Chicago who had been murdered on January 27. Antonio and Augustino Morici, whose business was at 622 Washington Boulevard in Chicago, were killed while driving in their car. Another car came alongside them at Ogden and Lincoln Avenues and they were filled with a volley of bullets. The Moricis had purchased their Lakeside Place home from Jim Genna and shortly before their deaths had contributed to the defense fund of murderers Scalise and Anselmi. Speciale worked for Joseph Lafatto (or LaFata) making fireman’s uniforms at 206 Warren Avenue.
Taxi driver David Kuehn reported that on the night of the murder he picked up two Italians at 7:15pm at West Water and Grand Avenue. They wished to be brought to the Western Union Office and then the Union Depot, saying they had to maker a train to Chicago at 7:30pm. A check with Western Union showed no telegrams sent that evening and a check at Union Depot showed that trains to Chicago were at 6:40pm and 8:20pm, and no Italians were noticed to board the train.
Mrs. Sam Marturano (formerly Mrs. Nicola Marino), 730 Jackson Street, informed Detective Dieden that Speciale had arrived in America on September 6 and had a woman with him whose maiden name was Gina Marino. Marturano said that this woman married a man from Porticello, but did not know his name. The husband was in New York, and when they made communication, she left Milwaukee to join him.
Vito Marino, a brother of Gina Marino, who lived at 421 Jackson Street in Room 9, said that his sister was brought to Milwaukee by Speciale. Around Christmas, she heard from her husband, Liberio Portero, and then left to go live with him in New York City. Vito Marino did not know the husband’s address or what he looked like.
Detective Dieden talked to Carlo Dragotta, the druggist at the Lyon Drug Store, and another man (the police record says “Mr —–”) and they told Dieden that Speciale had stopped by about three days ago and told them that he intended to do business on a big scale with the Morici Brothers of Chicago and the Catalano Brothers of Milwaukee. Speciale said he was going to deal in olive oil, tomato sauce and tuna fish. The unidentified man said that he heard that Speciale had a wife and two children in Bagheria, but was also having an affair with Mrs. Gina Portero in Porticello. When he was discovered, he fled Sicily with Gina for Spain in August 1925, and then came to Milwaukee in September 1925. Mr. Portero found out where they were and sent word for his wife to join him, which she apparently did. He believed the two gunmen to be Mr. Portero and a friend.
G. B. Guardalabene called the police station to talk to Detective Dieden. Guardalabene said “not to pay any attention to what Marino was saying, as he was feeble-minded, and that he did not know what he was talking about.” Dieden wrote in his report, “Knowing Guardalabene as well as I do, I construed this conversation just to the contrary.”
An anonymous letter came to the central police station on the evening of February 18 saying that “the slayers” were hiding out above a barber shop at 764 VanBuren. It was signed “A Citizen”. Upon raiding the place, owned by Charles Frankino, they discovered two empty 30-gallon stills, a cooler, 15 barrels of mash, but no killers. Mrs. Theresa Catina confirmed that these things belonged to her father, Frankino, and they were confiscated. No arrest was made because they had no warrant.
Letters found in Speciale’s room were confiscated and were given to Mike Vitucci for translation. (Dieden, who spoke Italian, apparently was unable to read the language.) Also found was a telegram addressed to Speciale from New York City, dated December 6: “Scampolo discovered your residence, hasten Gina’s departure, otherwise you will be disturbed.” It was signed Santo Marino.
On the morning of February 19, Officer Arnold Harris was making his rounds through the city’s hotels, and when he came to the Midford (?) he found that an Italian and his wife from Chicago were registered there on the morning of the murder and told the registration desk they would be staying a few weeks. The name on the register was Tony Consturi (? – the handwriting is bad) and he was in Room 709. His description matched that of the paperboys, standing 5’9″ and weighing 135-145 pounds. He “appears to be a very tough customer, but neatly dressed”. Harris did not approach the man, thinking he might scare him.
By the end of February 19, Dieden was thinking the murder may have been from members of a Chicago “alcohol society”. One letter to Speciale was translated to read that he must give these men 75% of his alcohol profits or “your body will be hacked to pieces and rolled in the sand.” Another letter said, “Either join the alcohol society at once and pay the initiation fee of $5000 and comply with other rules or quit the alcohol business entirely.”
Sergeant Dieden was in New York and sent a telegram to Police Chief Laubenheimer on February 23, instructing him to take Vito Marino into custody after he leaves the barber shop. He requested that Mike Vitucci ask him about his sister’s address, as well as the addresses for a cousin Andrea, Santo Marino, Frank Scardino and Michele Loiacano. He also wished to know who “Scampolo” was from Santo Marino’s telegram. Dieden wrote that Portero had not yet been located, and that Vito Marino should be held until Dieden advised them otherwise.
Laubenheimer responded on February 25, saying that Vito Marino was in custody but his attorneys were attempting to have him released. He claimed not to know any of the people mentioned in Dieden’s telegram, but did say that Santo Marino lived at 81 West 124th Street.
Dieden wrote a letter from the Hotel Walcott (Fifth Avenue and 31st Street) to Chief Laubenheimer on February 26. He said that he was getting assistance from Detective Repetto in New York. Dieden went to the address of 305 East 12th Street and found Mrs. Mary Lamagna, who ran a rooming house. She recalled Alberto Speciale staying there for one week in September, and after he left his mail was collected by a man with mustache and horn-rimmed glasses who claimed to be Speciale’s cousin. When checking up on the telegram sent from Santo Marino, Dieden spoke to a postal employee who recalled Marino having a small black mustache and shell-rimmed glasses.
A diary was found and transcribed, with names taken note of. Dieden said that, “All I learned is what I knew for a long time; that is, that a wop is a wop whether he is a laborer, a banker or a policeman.” Santo Marino was found on the morning of the 26th, and he claimed not to know of Speciale’s murder. Dieden confiscated numerous letters and telegrams from Marino’s room, which indicated to Dieden that Vito Marino knew every one of the addresses he had denied knowing. With Santo’s aid, Dieden found Gina. Liberio Portero was also found to have been at work every day for the past week, making him innocent of the murder.
Dieden was told of 35-year old Gene Cassera by Gina Marino, who was said to be a cousin of Liberio Portero’s and carried a gun. Cassera had not been seen in the past two weeks and had a bad reputation. Dieden had not yet found Andrea Fricano or Frank Scardina.
Lieutenant John Bauschek sent a letter to Detective Dieden on February 27, describing jewelry that had been obtained from the Louis Esser Company by a man named Maglio through check larceny. Dieden was also informed that Charles Bunworth, who was a suspect in the murder of Honkavaara, was killed in a shootout with Chicago police. Bauschek wrote, “I hope that at least you will have a little luck in the murder case there. If not, I guess we can all quit and get a new job. Good luck to you!”
Dieden again sent a telegram to the chief on February 27, telling him that “Gina states she was ordered out of Milwaukee by Guardalabene and Joe Amato”, and that there is no New York connection to the murder.
Decades later, an informant told the FBI that this murder was personal and not business, and was ordered by Joe Amato who wanted Speciale “out of the way”. The informant identified the gunmen as Vito Balistreri and Joseph Gumina.
The Riveria resort near Delafield, owned by Angelo Guardalabene, burned down around 5am Sunday, July 11, 1926. Evelen employees sleeping on the second floor had to escape through the window in their pajamas. Miss Nelda Moll, 23, fractured her leg jumping from the roof. Waiters John Teggelman and William Welier were also minorly injured. The fire department responded, but it was too late. Guardalabene vowed to rebuild the resort.
Frank Sammarco was arrested on July 14, 1926 for resisting and assaulting an officer — he was given eight months in the house of correction.
Nick Collura was arrested for larceny on August 21, 1926 and was fined $100.
Giovanni B. “Pete” Guardalabene, owner of the Monte Carlo Club was arrested on Friday, October 15, 1926 for liquor violations. Also arrested was his brother Angelo. The newspapers believed this was the “opening gun” by the feds to dry up the Third Ward, which was known for ignoring liquor laws, striking its most prominent member first rather than those who patronized his business. Guardalabene’s attorney was Roland J. Steinle, who would eventually become a judge and unsuccessfully run for US Senate as a Republican. Grace Lawson, 654 Jefferson Street, was also arrested. So was Mike Popp (address unknown) and Stanley Marzelek of the Town of Lake, who was found to have a 500-gallon still.
Mike Caruso was arrested November 17, 1926 by officers John Helz and George Radtke for burglary and grand larceny. He was sentenced to three years in the State Reformatory at Green Bay.
Filippo Damiano (813 Jackson) and Peter Balistrieri (715 Jefferson) were arrested on December 17, 1926 for assault and battery. Damiano had attempted to rob Frank Pfaff (1207 Chestnut) of his $150 by slugging him in the head with a pistol. Patrolman Ray Carlson chased the men from the scene of the crime at Cass and Mason, and one of them fired a shot at Carlson. They were caught when Balistrieri was unable to get his car moving because of the icy conditions. A third man fled on foot. Damiano confessed to hitting Pfaff, but insisted he did not know Balistrieri and had planned to force him to start the car at gunpoint (this, of course, is a lie). Bail was set at $4000 each and the case was continued to December 28. Damiano, fearing deportation, jumped bail and was arrested in numerous cities (Rockford, Springfield and Ottawa, Illinois) while a fugitive. He never returned (later moving to San Diego) and the charge was dropped January 23, 1935. Carlson was promoted to detective within two years.
Federal agents raided 336 Jefferson Street on February 2, 1927. From there they chased an automobile and caught up with Nick Fucarino, 1175 Madison Street, and Frank Ragusa at the corner of Jefferson and Huron. In their car was hidden 75 gallons of alcohol and a .33 revolver. Assistant US Attorney E. J. Koelzer requested that Commissioner H. L. Kellogg make their bail $8000, high enough that freedom was impossible. Defense attorney Oscar Nebel called this “ridiculously exorbitant”, but Koelzer explained his reasoning:
“We are convinced that these men are but the pawns of others of powerful influence and who furnished the $12,000 or $15,000 necessary to build and operate this big plant the agents found this morning. Additional information gathered by the agents since the raid and the capture of these men gives us a good line of the entire situation and may prove some connection with two or three other plants found in weeks. Neither of them is a citizen of this country and have no home ties here. There is no reason why they should not jump a small bail if they so wished and perhaps allow the bigger fry to escape the law.” Bail was set at $2500, and both men had paid before nightfall. The trial continued beyond September in order for further investigations to take place when Fucarino told the authorities that a “wealthy Chicagoan” was financing them.
Joseph Amato, 231 Jefferson, ruled over the city’s underworld until his death at age 41 from double-lobar pneumonia at Mt. Sinai Hospital on March 28, 1927. He left behind his wife, Stephena, along with his parents, Antonio Amato and Giuseppa Pizza Amato.
Joseph Vallone: 1927-1948
It was during Vallone’s tenure that the National Commission, a governing body of La Cosa Nostra crime families, was formed. The criminal council decided that the Milwaukee LCN Family would answer directly to and remain under the influence of the Chicago Outfit. Vallone’s underboss was allegedly Joseph Gumina, who would remain in that role during the Ferrara and Alioto years.
The capo decina under Vallone was Michele Mineo, who had transferred from Chicago to Milwaukee in April 1927. Mineo had been a member of the Mafia under Joe Aiello, but when fighting broke out between Aiello and Capone, Mineo moved north. He may have got out just in time, as during the summer and autumn of 1927, a number of hitmen hired by Aiello to murder Capone were themselves slain. Aiello was killed a few years later.
Peter Guardalabene was raided by Milwaukee and Chicago prohibition agents on July 15, 1927, and accused of being the owner of the Caldron Club, a night life establishment at 67 East State Street. On July 25, he was freed by court commissioner Harry L. Kellogg. “He may be guilty,” Kellogg said, “but all the evidence that has been introduced is consistent with his innocence.” Katie Miller, 70, a notorious night life figure known as Kittie Williams for 30 years, testified that she owned the building and leased it to Edward Grabenheimer, not Guardalabene. Miller and janitor Carl Laurosch testified that Guardalabene did pay a couple months’ rent, but he was a financial backer for Grabenheimer and not the owner.
Many “soda parlors” were raided and ordered to be padlocked on Saturday, July 23, 1927. One at 222 Jefferson Street was owned by Mike Vitucci and operated by his son, Frank. Other Italians involved in the raids were John Gigante, August DeStefano, Frank Spicuzza, Marie DePaolo, Frank and Tom Jennaro, Joe DePaolo, Tony and Josephine Gaglione, Rosario and Maria Mazza, Peter and Teresa Balestreri, and Frank Gingrasso.
In anticipation of the Fraternal Order of Eagles convention, police raided various saloons on Tuesday, August 9, 1927. Grocer Peter Tarantino, 49, was busted when Detective Vance Chamberlain handed Tarantino an empty pint bottle (as he had seen others do) and had it given back to him with whiskey. Witnessing the scene were Detectives Frank Beer and Adolph Nairnmer.
Sam Proite was arrested on November 22, 1927 for burglary. He was put on two years probation.
Joe Pessin was raided December 23, 1927 on the second floor of 2329 Vliet Street. Agents found an alcohol cutting plant and a huge assortment of counterfeit liquor labels and bottles.
At some point in 1928, Nick Fucarino was arrested by federal agents for possession of unstamped liquor, and he served four months in the house of correction for this.
On February 7, 1928, Detective Sergeant Louis Dieden and Deputy Sheriffs A. E. Chapman and Edward Seepman, raided a residence at 752 Van Buren Street and destroyed a 100-gallon still, 1500 gallons of mash, and a small quantity of moonshine liquor. Salvatore Carmelo, 72, was found tending the still, which was in operation. Josephine Sciano, a daughter of Carmelo, told the officers that the still belonged to her and that her father had nothing to do with it. Earlier in the day padlocking injunctions were served on Mike Vitucci’s place, 222 Jefferson street, one of the Third Ward’s most notorious night life gathering places.
In mid-February 1928, eight men were arrested at 4747 North Robey in Chicago for planning a bomb campaign under the leadership of Joseph Aiello (who was not present). Recently, Judge John Sbarbaro’s undertaking parlor had been bombed. The men were Joseph Caminiti, Dominic (or Anthony) Lanza, Oliver Clemente, Tony Calafiore (or Scalofora), Joe Greco, Salvatore Cannalle (or Canelli), Salvatore Aiello (no relation to Joseph Aiello) and Tony Imburia. Police found a shotgun with ammunition at the meeting place, but no explosives. The name discrepancies here are because the article and the caption from the Chicago Tribune have two very different ideas on spelling.
Bootlegger Joe Pessin’s malt and hop shop had its windows shot out by a passing automobile in March 1928. Pessin suspected Teddy Azzarella, who had recently threatened him.
Angelo LaMantia and Josephine Aiello took out a marriage license on May 15, 1928 in Waukegan, Illinois. Josephine was the daughter of Isadore Aiello and the sister of Frank and John Aiello.
Sam Proite was arrested June or July 14, 1928 for burglary (while he was still on probation). He was sentenced to two years in the Green Bay Reformatory.
Joseph Costarella, 40, was shot on July 18, 1928 while parking his car in the alley at 401 Madison Street. The shotgun blast came from a basement window, went through the car window, and injured Costarella’s left arm, face and chest. The gun was fired by Frank Scufari, who ran to a nearby woodshed but was soon found by Patrolman Leo Walters. Scufari told police that he had received a letter from the Black Hand demanding payment of $100, and he thought Costarella was associated with them and came to kill him. He admitted, however, that he did not know if Costarella was a member or what his reason for being in the alley was. Scufari had been hiding in the basement, paranoid, ever since the letter arrived. Costarella denied he knew anything about it.
Lightweight boxer Frank Alioto, known professionally as Frankie Barry, was shot from a passing automobile and killed at the corner of 24th and State in Chicago on Sunday, August 19, 1928. Originally from New York, Alioto had been living in Milwaukee the last few months, working as the doorman for the Ringside smoke shop at 173 1/2 Second Street. He was in Chicago to avenge an insult to his wife, cabaret entertainer Emma Alioto. He had previously been shot in Chicago and Detroit, and once slashed with a razor by a barber in Milwaukee.
Wealthy bootlegger and cafe owner Anthony (Tony) Kuzmanovich, 43, (a Serbian emigre) was slain by a sawed-off shotgun near the corner of 65th and Wisconsin on August 28, 1928. He was heading home to 6508 Wells. Clayton Rogers, 538 Jefferson Street, heard the gunshot and turned to see a blue car with Wisconsin plates and two spare tires on the back. Police believed the car to be an Auburn. The cafe was the Te Kay restaurant at 419 Michigan. Anna Kuzmanovich, the widow, suspected the killing’s motive to be robbery (he had $800 on him) while the police thought that it may be connected to some sort of “beer war” between Milwaukee and Chicago. Kuzmanovich had twice been raided in the summer of 1927 (six half barrels seized in June, and another five in August) and served 8 months in the house of correction. Kuzmanovich had called two police captains the night before his death, but they were personal calls and not connected to his demise.
James LaRosa, 18, brother of Tony LaRosa, was arrested for auto larceny around September 1928. LaRosa denied he had stolen a car, but claimed he was merely picked up for a ride by Paul Munillizi who had stolen the car and authorities had placed false blame on him. LaRosa admitted, however, that he was aware the car was stolen. At trial, his character witnesses included Mike Ianelli.
The Adler Clothing plant in Plymouth was bombed on Monday, November 12, 1928 by members of a Milwaukee gang: Tony Crivello, 22, 245 Jackson Street; Jack Sorce, 25, 527 Marshall Street; Cosimo DeSalvo, 30, 351 VanBuren; and Vito Aiello. After their arrest, Sorce and Crivello told Deputy Inspector Joseph Drewniak that DeSalvo was paid $500 for the bombing, and they were each offered $150. Neither revealed who had paid DeSalvo.
Joseph Scaffidi was arrested in 1929 in Racine for burglary.
Mike Caruso, out on parole, was arrested on February 26, 1929 by officers James Barrett and John Nadolski for carrying a loaded .38 revolver. He was sent back to the State Reformatory in Green Bay.
On Tuesday, April 2, 1929, Wisconsin voted by a roughly 2 to 1 margin to repeal the Severson Prohibition Act, the state version of the federal Prohibition law. This had relatively little effect, as the state only had thirteen enforcement agents and the larger cities (like Milwaukee) were patrolled by the federal agents.
Santo Marino was arrested in Milwaukee for rape on April 17, 1929 for the assault of a woman on November 20, 1928. John DiTrapani, only 15 years old, was arrested for rape on the same day and sent to a detention home. Was it the same offense?
Joe Pessin was raided in April 1929, this time at 789 71st Avenue in West Allis, where he had an elaborate whiskey plant.
Harry DeAngelo was arrested for assault and battery on April 30, 1929 but the charges were dropped.
In June 1929, Joe Pessin was one of 138 people indicted by a Brooklyn, New York federal grand jury for conspiracy to distribute and sell imitation liquor bottles and labels.
After operating in direct violation of Prohibition for several years, dry agents raided the Bright Spot tavern (148 Detroit Street) on Saturday, July 6, 1929. Agent Nick Annen led the raiding party, and they discovered a pint of moonshine, a pint of whiskey, half a pint of gin, some bottles of beer and 80 gallons of wine. John Sanfilippo was arrested for being the bartender, and his brother James was arrested as the licensee. They were released on their own recognizance and ordered to appear on July 8 before Commissioner Harry Kellogg. Robert Merkel and Raymond C. Slye had purchased alcohol there on Friday and reported back to the dry agents, leading to a search warrant. The brothers waived their right to a preliminary hearing.
On July 9, 1929, the Milwaukee Sentinel told the story of Sam Cefalu, 23, formerly of 243 Jefferson Street. Cefalu, American by birth, had gone to live in Italy. However, the Italian army sought to draft him, claiming that his parents being Italian was enough to make him Italian. Cefalu fled the country on the Fabre liner Sinala, coming through the port of Providence, leaving behind his mother and new bride in Palermo. They were scheduled to join Cefalu in Milwaukee in August 1929.
Joseph Gumina was arrested for assault and battery on August 20, 1929. The charges were dismissed by the court.
Nick Fucarino married Rosalie Maniaci (born in Milwaukee July 20, 1907 to Chas Maniaci and Grace Zingale) on September 14, 1929 in Milwaukee. Witnesses were Salvatore Ferrara and Tina Maniaci with Rev. Anthony Bainotti officiating.
The Farmers and Merchants bank of Jefferson, Wisconsin was robbed by four men in a Cadillac on November 7, 1929. $340,000 in cash and securities were stolen, with the car being found later in Richland Center (95 miles west). One of the robbers was later identified as Fred “Killer” Burke, a likely shooter in the notorious St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Another massacre participant, Gus Winkeler, was also suspected to be involved in the robbery and was known to have some of the bonds in his possession after the fact.
Carmelo Curro (898 Racine Street), 18, and Angelo Aiello (182 Lloyd Street), 17, “abducted” two girls in the early hours of Friday, November 8, 1929. Marian Trapp, 19, and Eva Pollack, 22, were taken from Clarence Nowicki and Herman Gorski at gunpoint in front of the Boston Lunch Room at 416 East Water Street and forced into the Italians’ automobile. The girls screamed and help arrived, with Curro and Aiello going to jail. Police captured three other men, but they were released. They were: Tony Maglio, 17, 1085 North Water Street; Carmelo Maglio, 21, 238 Jefferson Street; and Joseph Italiano, 17, of 200 Lyon Street. Aiello was referred to juvenile court, and Curro was released on $150 bond and was scheduled to appear in court November 15 for pointing a weapon.
G. B. Guardalabene was elected the president of the Society del Lume for the sixth consecutive time at St. John’s Cathedral on Sunday, December 22, 1929. His father, Vito Guardalabene, had founded the society in 1909 and all 146 of its members are from Porticello, Sicily. Alfred Sanfilippo was elected vice president; Ted F. Crivello, recording secretary; Salvatore Papio, financial secretary; John Carini, comptroller; and Salvatore Balistreri, marshal. Directors chosen were Mariano Megna, Joe Sococo, Sebastiano Cefalu, and Vincenzo Gumina.
Sunday, January 26, 1930, dry agents raided the Jefferson Inn (296 Jefferson) and arrested Joseph Alioto, bartender Joseph Lorenzo and waiter Mariano Rugeri. The agents destroyed 92 pints of gin, 18 pints of whiskey, one gallon of alcohol, two gallons of whiskey, seven 50-gallon barrels of beer, two gallons of gin, and two half-barrels of beer.
Nick Collura was arrested on March 7, 1930 for assaulting George Meirhofer and was fined $25. He was then held by the police on suspicion of vagrancy.
Frank LaGalbo, 21, was arrested on March 30, 1930 for lewd and lascivious behavior. The charge was amended to fornication, and later dismissed. Jack Enea was arrested the same day for assault and armed robbery, and that charge was dismissed.
Harry DeAngelo was arrested for being in a brothel on April 20, 1930. Sam Proite was arrested for the same thing a day before and fined $10.
Vito Aiello had a capias issued against him on May 12, 1930 for assault and robbery. He was finally arrested August 19 and the charges were dismissed.
Joe Teresi and John Tomasello of Chicago were arrested in August 1930 and charged with operating a brewery on a farm near South Milwaukee. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to three months in a house of correction by federal judge F. A. Geiger. At the time of their trial another man, Tom Bottelo, was still being sought.
On Saturday, August 16, 1930, prohibition agents raided a home owned by Philip Sasso at 1222 Whiterock Avenue in Waukesha. Two men were arrested. Thirty barrels, five vats and sixty-five gallon jugs of beer were confiscated and dumped. James DeRosa’s residence at 1425 Blake Street in Racine was also raided. 250 gallons of whiskey were found along with 450 gallons of beer.
John DiTrapani, 17, was arrested for attempted larceny on October 11, 1930.
Joseph Dentice, 23, went to New York on October 22, 1930 to visit his cousin, John Riggio, 30. Joseph’s father, Carl, warned him not to go, as Riggio was involved in the grape and wine business. While in New York, two assailants riding in the same car parked in front of a Brooklyn church and shot Dentice and Riggio, with Riggio dying of his wounds. Dentice later identified the killers as James Sangamino and Leonard “Nardo” (???) of Brooklyn. Both went to prison and one received the electric chair.
Also on October 22, there was an attempted holdup of Paul Rodinkovich’s saloon at the corner of Hubbard and Vine. The police were tipped off, though, and waited at the saloon to arrest the four youths when they arrived in a car they rented from the Rent-a-Car Company. They were: Stanley Doran of Montfort, Harry DeAngelo, Rosario Gagliano, 26, and Dominic Picciurro. Doran would later be involved in other holdups (including a violent one involving an Italian fruit vendor) and spent over a decade in Waupun. Gagliano was put on three years probation.
Frank LaGalbo was at 730 West Washington Avenue in Madison on Monday, November 3, 1930. As he was preparing to leave, he dropped his pistol and it discharged, shooting him in the leg and shattering his shin. He was rushed to the Madison General Hospital. LaGalbo was not discharged until Sunday, December 7.
Tony Machi was arrested for disorderly conduct on November 27, 1930 and fined $5.
Joseph Pessin was arrested Friday afternoon, December 5, 1930 after dry agents discovered an alcohol cutting and bottling plant hiding behind the facade of Pessin’s Reliance Malt and Hops store at 2517 West Vliet Street. Also arrested was his brother William. While on the premises, agents answered a number of phone calls from known bootleggers looking for “packages” and saw multiple cars stop and speed off when they saw strangers inside the building. Five gallons of alcohol and several gallons of liquors were found and the fancy bottles they were in were labeled creme de menthe, creme de cacoa, cointreau and various brands of whiskey and gin. All bottles were smashed. Joe served 18 months in Leavenworth, while William was found not guilty.
Later the same day, agents raided a bungalow near Franksville in Racine County and arrested Frank Jannuzzi and Anton Galoti. The agents discovered a 250-gallon still, and destroyed 3600 gallons of mash and 100 gallons of whiskey.
Frank LaGalbo was arrested February 13, 1931 for suspicion of receiving stolen property, but was released. John DiTrapani, 17, was arrested on suspicion of a holdup on February 16, 1931 but was released.
(Late February or Early March 1931) “Cross-Eyed” Jack Loffredo shot Joseph “Dago Pete” Paolo (the “bad man of Bay View”) three times in the chest outside Mike Delsano’s pool hall in St. Francis, where they had just had an argument over “tribute” money that Paolo felt Loffredo owed. Paolo said that if he was not paid $300, he would turn Loffredo into the feds for bootlegging. Accompanying Loffredo was Julio Desisteri of Cicero, Illinois, though he was only a witness to the shooting and did not take part. Other witnesses were Sam DeAllesandro and Ambrose Marinelli. Matt Delsano, Loffredo’s step-father, falsely told police that he did not know who shot Paolo. Loffredo would turn himself in to the police 36 hours after the shooting, but not until after consulting with Mike Vitucci, the “king of Little Italy”. Loffredo later claimed that Paolo fired the first shot and his actions were self-defense (which was supported by a .45 found near Paolo’s body).
While investigating the murder, police went to the home of Ciro Tamboli, 3129 South Hansen Avenue, and discovered a still. The police reported it to dry agents. Tamboli tried to have the evidence suppressed on the grounds that it was an illegal search, but his motion was denied.
Jack Loffredo was sentenced to 14 to 16 years in Waupun by Judge George A. Shaughnessy. Even if Loffredo had beaten the charges, he would have been referred to the federal authorities after four stills were found in his home. Perhaps most interesting, the widow of Dago Pete, Josie Paolo, sat side by side in the courtroom with Flo Walker, Pete’s mistress, as they comforted each other.
Dominic Picciurro was convicted of assault and armed robbery on March 9, 1931. He was sentenced to three years in Waupun State Prison by Judge Charles L. Aarons.
Joseph Urso, 18, was arrested at the Conklin gas station on West Washington Avenue in Madison on Friday, March 27, 1931 for carrying a concealed .45 army pistol. Arresting officers were Edward F. Riphon and Calvert J. Sparks. Brothers Frank and Paul LaGalbo were also arrested because they looked “nervous” as they pulled into the gas station. Urso had previously been a suspect in gas station holdups with Myron Stevenson.
John Triliegi, 16, was arrested for attempted auto larceny on April 17, 1931 and sent to the detention home. He was warned and the matter was closed.
Charles Crupi, brother of vice lord Vincent Crupi, was sentenced to six months in the house of correction on April 23, 1931 for liquor law violations. Charles operated a “chicken shack” at 604 North Third Street.
Frank Stelloh was arrested for vagrancy in Wichita, Kansas on April 24, 1931. (Why Stelloh was in Wichita is beyond me — and he was probably not yet affiliated with the syndicate.)
On April 25, John Triliegi was arrested again for aiding and advising the commission of a felony (a burglary). This time, on May 1, he was sent to the St. Charles Home for one year.
John Alioto took a position with Milwaukee’s Bureau of Street Sanitation on May 4, 1931. He would work his way up from ward laborer to labor foreman over the next 25 years.
Vito Aiello was arrested for assault and battery on May 16, 1931 but the charges were dismissed.
Jack Enea, wanted in Milwaukee for auto theft, was captured in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 31, 1931.
Jack Enea was arrested by the US Marshals in Milwaukee on June 2, 1931 for violating the National Prohibition Act. He was fined $250 and sentenced to 10 months.
Port Washington had a raid on the afternoon of Monday, August 31, resulting in a brewery being discovered at a warehouse formerly occupied by Ekko Manufacturing. 1000 gallons of beer were found in cooling tanks, 350 gallons were found in barrels, ten packages of yeast was there, along with carbonizers, an ice machine and hundreds of bottle caps.
John DiTrapani, 18, was arrested for suspicion of burglary on September 5, 1931. He was released without charge.
Nick Gentilli was arrested in Milwaukee for burglary on September 21 and was transferred to Shorewood the next day.
Mike Caruso was arrested on October 26, 1931 by officers Arthur Grundemann, Vance Chamberlain and Anton Barbian for violating the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act. He was given a $100 fine and released.
On Thursday, November 19, 1931, Frank (or Joseph) Alioto was sentenced to six months in the house of correction and fined $250 for a liquor law violation at the Jefferson Inn, 400 North Jefferson. A waiter, Marianno Ruggeri, was given 60 days. Anthony Sylvester and Anthony Sorce of the Flore d’Italia (501 East Clybourn) were each sentenced to six months and $250.
Margaret Cardoni Farino, 22, was abducted on December 16 as her husband Richard, 47, looked on helplessly. Three men came into their saloon, with one man holding the patrons at bay while the other two bundled her into a large car, and drove off in the direction of Chicago. Richard Farino suspected one of the men might have been a former sweetheart from Gary, Indiana. After reporting the incident to police, Margaret returned the next day and offered no explanation. The police held her for questioning.
Michael Enea, 17, was arrested on December 23, 1931 for auto larceny and was committed to the Waukesha Industrial School.
Isadore Siegel’s grocery store, at 1740 North Third, was robbed on March 5, 1932 by Chicago hoodlums Marshall Caifano and Matthew Auriene. When caught on March 10, the men had revolvers and stolen license plates. Caifano was found in a room at 1717 North Fourth Street, and the room contained four loaded revolvers, three .45s, and one .38. Soon, four more Chicago hoodlums were captured while planning the robbery of a Grafton bank: Robert VanSant (alias VanSantis), Angelo Kleros (also known as Angelo Kleronomos), William Lattos and Charles Conroy (alias Bill Burke). Caifano pleaded guilty was sentenced to one to three years in the House of Correction on March 21 (but was already paroled by November 18).
Michele Mineo, 34, was arrested on March 7 or 9, 1932 for violating the “National Prohibition Act” and turned over to federal officers. He was caught operating a distillery in Shawano County. His partners in the crime were Ignazio “Charley” Giangrasso, Bernard Martin Ehlinger, Pete D. George (alias George Basco, alias Vincent Raschella), Gaetano “Thomas” Mancuso, John Luebeck, Edward Elmer Lyons, and Louis Elwin Walters.
Charles Conroy was arrested on March 10, 1932 for his involvement in the bank robbery plan mentioned above. On March 21, he was sentenced to three years in the Green Bay reformatory. Conroy also used the alias of Charles Hudson and was later a close associate of Joseph “Caesar” DiVarco. He was involved in numerous bank robberies around the country over the next decade.
John Triliegi was arrested for violations of the Prohibition Act on April 4, 1932. He was turned over to federal authorities the next day.
Sergeant Anton Zarek observed an automobile driving in circles while three men were genuflecting in Wanderers Rest Cemetery on Friday, April 15, 1932. The three men — two from Cleveland, Ohio (Carl Piccerelle and Albert Giannini) and grocer Louis Paradise (aka Luigi Parabicoli) of 1415 East Potter Avenue — were arrested on vagrancy charges, along with the driver, a man named Mike Fabbrocino from Cicero, Illinois. After questioning from Captain Harry Ridenour, it was determined that in the past week Paradise had sold the men roughly $3000 worth of sugar. The men promised to pay him if he met them in the cemetery. He did, but all they had on them was a tin box filled with newspaper cut to the size and shape of currency and a few real bills on top to hide the con. Police found $5000 in $100 bills in the Cleveland men’s pockets, which the men used to attempt a bribe of Ridenour. Paradise was turned over to Prohibition officials on the grounds that such a large quantity of sugar was likely used for making alcohol. He was also found to have two-ounce bottles of alcohol. The Cleveland men were later convicted of bribery and their money was taken by the state as evidence. Charges against Paradise were dropped when he produced a doctor’s note explaining that he used the alcohol to ease his rheumatic hands.
Jerome “Momo” DiMaggio, 23, 520 East Detroit Street, was arrested April 22, 1932 for assault with intent to kill a police officer (Lawrence Lenz, 35). With him was Joseph Corrao. DiMaggio was sentenced to 1-20 years in Waupun, but did not even serve three.
Joseph Dentice, 24, was shot on April 30, 1932 while inside a Third Ward barbershop (Phil’s Barber Shop) at 632 East Clybourn. Four rounds of buckshot from an automatic shotgun came in through the window, some of which lodged in his lower back. Four other men were hit by flying glass and cut: Philip Zarcone, 23, 1401 West Walnut Street; Frank Bruno, 23, 2345 North Humboldt; Joseph Sorce, 21, 1325 Second Street; and Joseph Zarcone, 49, 618 East Detroit. Police believed the attack was retaliation for Dentice’s ratting out his cousin’s killers.
On June 13, 1932, a variety of men were arrested on charges of conspiracy to violate liquor laws. A total of 45 men were wanted, including at least ten from Milwaukee. Failed county supervisor candidate Angelo Guardalabene, 812 East State Street, posted $2000 in bond. So did professional fight promoter Albert J. Tusa (426 Warner), grocer Joseph Vallone (421 East Buffalo), and Joe Domanik of Racine. Tusa said to the press, “I can’t understand it. I’ve never been in the racket and never been in any kind of trouble with the federal government. This whole thing is hurting my family and my business.” Vallone, co-owner of Migliaccio and Vallone, claimed that his only connection to the liquor business was that he sold corn sugar, but denied that he knew what the customers used it for. A hearing was set for June 24. Following a grand jury hearing, more Milwaukeeans were charged: Tusa’s secretary Marion Jezo, Jack Phillips, Jack Barber and Sam Holzman.
Joseph Spero married Prudence Maglio (born February 3, 1909 in Milwaukee to Santo Maglio and Sebastiana Farina) on July 18, 1932.
Carmelo Pecoraro, 20, 2550 North Booth Street, was arrested around December 1932 for violating Anti-Trust laws. Pecoraro devised the idea of organizing the paving contractors of Milwaukee into a union, charging them 5% of what they made on paving jobs. He met with 7 contractors on the evening of October 10, 1932 at the Schwerwin Brothers office, and was caught on a Dictaphone, with the recording being made by the police in another room. Herbert Hinstorff, assistant police secretary, was pretending to be a “Mr. Edwards” and lead Pecoraro on with questioning about the scheme. At one point, Pecoraro said, “I’m fro ma certain Chicago gang. That is who I am.” Pecoraro was joined by a man named Peter Bongiovanni, 23. Character witnesses at his trial were the Balistrieri Brothers of Jackson Street, Sam Pecora and Joe Fugarine of 2550A North Booth Street (the same building as Pecoraro and his sister, Mrs. Rose Sardina). R. E. Stoelting, commissioner of public works, testified that Pecoraro came to him and offered him 2% and said he was connected to Chicago gunmen. Pecoraro contended that what he did should not have been illegal, as the sewer contractors in town were organized.
Nick Collura was arrested for larceny on November 12, 1932.
Chicago hoodlum Dominick DiBella was arrested at a drug store at 11th and Wisconsin during an investigation on Thursday, December 22, 1932, photographed, fingerprinted and then released. With him were Dominick Brancato, Frank Laiton and Joseph Lisciandrello. They told the police they were in the ginger ale business. When detectives Joseph Schalla and Carl Voy found three shotguns, two revolvers, a pinch bar and some pliers in their room at the LaSalle Hotel, the men claimed they planned on doing some hunting. Brancato was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, but the charge was dismissed by the court on April 7, 1933.
Sunday night, January 22, 1933, five Italians displaying badges and claiming to be federal agents entered the home of Mrs. Sam Leto, 2452 South Sixty-Second Street. They searched the house, but apparently found nothing. After they left, Leto noticed two revolvers missing.
On the evening of Monday, January 23, 1933, Charles Schmidt of 1915 Lake Avenue in Cudahy was hijacked by five men: Tony Gennaro, 31, 1685 North Marshall Street; Carlo Galati, 27, 5632 West Rogers Street; Tony Cicerello, 26, 1759 North Marshall; Cosimo DeSalvo, 28, 1247 South Thirty-Fourth Street; and Joseph Scaffidi, 25, of 329 North Jackson Street. The assailants believed Schmidt was hauling alcohol, so they ran him off the road and searched his car. Finding nothing, they let him go — but he was quick enough to catch their license plate number. The men were arrested early Tuesday in a soft drink parlor on the corner of North Third and West Highland. Police found two revolvers and four fake badges in their car.
Officer John Zilavy and Detective Heinrich were called to the A&P at 914 East Ogden Avenue by manager Lyle Wueir on February 1, 1933 after he had reported the night before to Patrolman John Karazak of three suspicious youths who bought a bottle of milk from him. A quick check revealed the men to be Nick Machi, Nick Gentilli and Rocco Maglio, who rented apartment 204 at 912 East Ogden Avenue for the purpose of hanging out with young women.
Four Italians were brought in for questioning at 11:15am on February 8, 1933 regarding the February 6 shooting death of Patrolman Zingler. They were Rocco Maglio, 18, 218 North Jefferson; Nick Machi, 18, 221 North Jefferson; John Vallone, 19, 222 North Milwaukee Street; and Nick Gentilli, 18, 2208 East Webster Place. They were not strong suspects but merely brought in because of their recent police contact. Nick Gentilli said he was at home sick with venereal disease at the time of the murder, and this was backed up by his mother and brother Mike. The other three said they were at their rented apartment with two young women, and this was confirmed by the apartment manager who said she had warned them between 11:00pm and 11:30pm not to make too much noise.
Joe Pessin’s malt and hop shop was threatened again on March 5, 1933. This time a bomb consisting of five sticks of dynamite was found on his doorstep. A fuse had burned but the blasting cap was defective. A day before, Teddy Azzarella threatened Pessin, asking for a cut of profits from an alleged still.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided on Tuesday, March 7, 1933 that a civil action would be needed in order for the money confiscated by the Milwaukee Police from two Cleveland bootleggers to be given to Louis Paradise as compensation for his $3000 loss in sugar. As the money was bribe money and thus part of a crime, the police claimed it as police property.
On March 13, 1933, bootlegger Pasquale Caruso tried to force his attentions on the wife of his partner, Pasquale Schirripa. They lived together at 1090 White Rock Avenue, Waukesha. She did not appreciate this, and retrieved a revolver from upstairs and came down, shooting at Caruso three times. He dodged the bullets and returned fire as he fled in his car.
Rocco Maglio was arrested March 23, 1933 for suspicion of burglary, but was released. He was arrested again on May 25, this time for petit larceny, and had his sentence suspended.
Joseph Luberti was arrested on June 9, 1933 for violating liquor laws at 925 Layton Avenue, Cudahy. Charges were eventually dropped when the arresting officer failed to appear in court.
Vincenzo “James” Orlando,43, Philip Sasso, 40, and Pasquale Caruso were playing cards (an Italian game similar to “duck on the rock”) at Orlando’s home at 215 East Main Street in Waukesha on Sunday, July 16, 1933. A fight broke out, the men went outside, and Orlando stabbed Sasso in the stomach, causing a 10-inch wound, with Caruso escaping with the knife. When questioned by Sheriff Arthur J. Moran, Orlando admitted a fight broke out but would not say he stabbed anyone. Sasso died in the municipal hospital the next day. Despite Caruso’s attempts to intimidate witnesses, Orlando was sentenced to life in prison. Ironically, it was Sasso who had petitioned for Orlando’s release from prison after murdering Natole “Leo” Grasso.
On August 4, 1933, Giovanni Battista Guardalabene was raided at a farm north of Port Washington, where they had a 600-gallon still. Also arrested were Charles Giangrasso (622 East Clybourn Street), Clarence Kruke and Jake Medinger of Port Washington. Rudy McBride and Durlin Meyers of Watertown, Vito and Angelo Aiello of 1503 North Van Buren Street, Ralph Rinaldi of 1435 North Van Buren Street, and Paul Eichbaum of 1551 North Warren Avenue.
Mike Albano, 15, was arrested on August 22, 1931 for suspicion of car theft. (1931 or 1933?)
John Volpe, 13, was arrested on September 4, 1933 for burglary and sent to the detention home.
Frank Sansone was arrested September 30, 1933 for being the inmate of a gambling house and fined $5.
In October 1933, Joe Pessin was among 22 persons convicted of conspiracy for being part of a liquor ring that went through Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and South Dakota.
Chicago hoodlum Sam Battaglia was arrested during an investigation in Milwaukee on October 12, 1933, and gave the false name “Sam Rice”. He was released the next day.
Nick Collura was arrested on October 14, 1933 for suspicion of assault and battery but was released by Lieutenant Roger Burns.
Steve Tarantino was convicted of armed robbery on October 17, 1933. Judge Max W. Nohl sentenced him to six years in the state reformatory.
Harry DeAngelo was arrested for vagrancy on November 4, 1933. Police stopped him at East State and North VanBuren around 4:00pm and found four shotguns in his Cadillac sedan. DeAngelo told the police he was returning from a hunting trip. The charges were dropped. With him when he was stopped were Joseph Scaffidi and three other men.
Joseph Scaffidi was arrested on December 15, 1933 for his second offense of carrying a concealed weapon. He was sentenced to 15 months but was released after 9 when his arm was crippled in a prison machine.
In 1934, the Milwaukee Molasses and Products Company (302 North Jackson) had Pasquale Migliaccio as president, Joseph Geloso as vice president and Albert Tusa as secretary-treasurer. The company was allegedly selling molasses to bootleggers.
John Triliegi, 19, was arrested on January 14, 1934 as an inmate of a gambling house and was fined $5.
Michael Albano was picked up during an investigation on January 24, 1934 and released the same day.
Charles Proite, 18, 519A East Clybourn, and Joseph Jennaro, 17, 215 North Jefferson, got into a knife fight with seven Greeks and a black youth on Sunday, February 4, 1934. They were injured (Proite in the chest, Jennaro in the right thigh) and were able to make it into a tavern and call the police.
August Chiaverotti was arrested on February 8, 1934 for running alcohol.
In 1934, August Maniaci married Mary Guttilla in Rockford. Mary’s father was Joe Guttilla, a made member in Rockford.
Frank LaGalbo was arrested for assault and battery on February 14, 1934 and fined $30. Santo Curro, 24, was arrested for rape on March 2, 1934 and put on three years probation.
On July 14, 1934, John Biever’s tavern in Mequon was held up by Peter Sorce, James Gumina, Anton Gennaro and Norman Kendler. $180 was taken from the cash register and two slot machines. Sorce, Gumina and Gennaro were later (September 4) sentenced to ten years in Waupun. Kendler, already on parole, was sentenced to seven years.
On Sunday, August 19, 1934, detectives of the morals squad raided a smoke shop at 1500 North Jefferson and caught men shooting dice. Anton Criviello (428 North Jefferson) was fined $100 as keeper of gambling house. Nine other men were fined $5 each for being patrons.
Madison (and future Rockford) mob member Phil Emordeno was arrested in Milwaukee on September 21, 1934 for violating the Internal Revenue Laws. He was turned over to federal agents.
On Tuesday, October 9, 1934, Detective Attilio Caviani stopped Anthony DiGiovanni of Rockford as he was driving through town with 120 gallons of untaxed alcohol. The federal authorities were contacted, but did not arrive, so DiGiovanni was released (with the alcohol) after receiving a $50 fine for having a concealed weapon.
Mrs. Vincenza Caruso died of a heart ailment some time around November 1934, as Detective Attilio Caviani burst into her home to arrest her son, Peter Caruso. Peter’s brother Pasquale claimed that Cavalani physically knocked his mother down while entering the house, but there is no evidence of this.
Michael Albano was arrested on November 15, 1934 in Milwaukee for violating internal revenue laws. He was handed over to federal authorities the next day.
At 1:00am on November 24, 1934, Mike Caruso and two other Italians were in Pearl’s Tavern (1428 West Lincoln) when they got into an argument with Edward Nowak over a dice game. One of the Italians poked Nowak in the ribs with a revolver and Nowak left. Soon he returned with Larry Krajewski, who had a sawed-off shotgun, but the Italians had left.
Juvenile Sam Librizzi, 14, was arrested on December 8, 1934 for gambling, but was released by Lieutenant H. Dox.
On Sunday, December 9, 1934, Fred Switolski, with a club in his pocket, came to the home of Mrs. George Fassenbecker, who lived downstairs from Pasquale Caruso at 2479 North Cramer. The man said he was a friend of Frank Polinski and was looking for Mike Caruso, who had sold Polinski 15 gallons of alcohol in three 5-gallon cans that were rigged to only hold a small amount of alcohol. Fassenbecker, who was no friend of the Caruso family, told the man that Mike was not home.
The Murder of Pasquale Caruso
Rum runner Pasquale Caruso, 37, of 2481 North Cramer Street, was in Waukesha on December 12, 1934 and returned to Milwaukee later the same day. He visited the home of R. Leo (1246 North Cass), and left at 9:15pm. From there, he stopped by Palm Beach Tavern at Jackson and Juneau (owned by Joseph Rizzo). Finally, he stopped by the Peter DeRicho Smoke Shop just north of the Jackson Theatre.
Caruso was shot twice in the back with a shotgun while entering Milan’s Bakery (owned by Charles Oddo) at 1638 North Water Street at 11:20pm. The assailants drove off northbound in a small, dark sedan. The car was witnessed by Walter Stiff (1742 North Third Street, Apartment 4) who was walking south down Water Street. Stiff could not see the occupants of the car, but did hear Caruso cry out from the bakery, “They have broke both my legs!” Caruso had a loaded .32 Smith and Wesson revolver (serial number 333017) on the front seat of his Ford Coupe (rather than in his pocket), indicating he did not expect an attack. Twelve bullets were in his pockets.
Charles Oddo was inside the bakery kneading bread when he heard the shots. One broke the window in the bakery’s door and pellets also flew past Oddo’s head imbedding themselves in his wall. Oddo heard knocking at his door and went out to see Caruso lying on the ground, complaining of pain in his back and legs. Oddo knew Caruso, as the latter had been coming to the bakery four times a week for the past three months to get old bread for his hunting dog.
Peter Horbinski was working as a night mechanic for Checker Cab on Water Street. He heard the two shots and saw Caruso lying on the ground. Horbinski ran back inside and called the operator and told her to notify the police of a shooting. August Coraggio (1632 Water Street) was woken up by the shots and went out to see what was the matter. Vincent J. Stragnola and Steve Krumpolick, who were in the upstairs of the bakery also came out. Caruso told the three men, “They got me! They were in a car.”
Joseph Makowski (415 West Keefe) was working as a fireman at the Albert Trostle Tannery, 1655 North Water. Around 11:30pm, his dog starting barking and he heard someone running behind the building. He opened the door but saw no one.
Caruso was taken to Dr. Kaufman at the County Emergency Hospital, where he refused to talk with the police. His brother, Mike, arrived at the hospital and the two spoke in Italian. Mike told the police he now knew the story and would handle it himself. Pasquale then told police it was Detective Louis Dieden who shot him. This was, of course, a lie. Police questioned Dieden anyway, and his whereabouts were vouched for by Walter Zarse, George Eholt, Carl Janson and John Leisch. Pasquale had shot Dieden’s partner, Emil Hoppe, ten years prior, permanently crippling him. The two men did not get along.
An unidentified person told a patrolman of a car driving suspiciously fast with a damaged front end in the vicinity of North VanBuren around midnight. The witness caught the license plate number: 544-443. Could it have been the killers’ car? No. The car, a Chevrolet Coach, was traced to Frank Strube who was returning home from work.
The next morning at 9:00am, feeling death was imminent, Pasquale Caruso told Officer Gilbert E. Lemke that he suspected Pasquale “Patsy” Schirripa of 1090 White Rock Avenue, Waukesha, who had threatened him numerous times previously.
Police interviewed Casper Picarro or Picorroro (1400 North Broadway), who was renting a tavern from Caruso. Picarro told the police that Caruso was in the alcohol business and was a partner with a man in Waukesha in a restaurant. Picarro also told of the partner’s wife shooting at Caruso when he became too friendly. Peter Rizzo (1119 North Jackson) gave them a similar story, but believed it was the husband who fired the shot.
Detectives Heinrich and Fox questioned Joe Ferry, the owner of a tavern at 140 East Highland Avenue. Ferry was familiar with Caruso, who occasionally stopped in to the tavern and had last been there about a week prior. Ferry said that Caruso always came alone, and that his business was in Waukesha. Ferry believed that Caruso had “a lot of enemies” in Waukesha, but knew of none in Milwaukee. The detectives also questioned Rocco Alberti, tavern keeper at 926 North Water Street. He concurred with Ferry that Caruso was in the “alcohol and beer racket” and had “a large number of enemies in Waukesha”. Alberti suggested the detectives talk to a man known as One-Armed Jimmie.
Fred Switolski, a tavern keeper at 2315 South 13th Street, showed detectives a trick that Mike Caruso had played on him recently. He had a can that was supposed to be filled with five gallons of alcohol, but actually only contained a small amount. The can was rigged to have two layers, with the top being alcohol and the bottom water — when you poured it out, alcohol would come out and the water in the bottom would give it weight. Switolski complained to Mike, but he was told to “lay off” or Mike would show up “ten strong” and wreck his tavern. (Police later had John Wojtecki and Victor Krawiecki vouch for Switolski that he had been in his tavern on the night of the shooting.)
Former detective Atillio Caviani reported that he had reliable information that Mike Caruso and Philip Clemente were “the east side cigarette burglars”. Caruso, 25, was arrested at the corner of Milwaukee and Knapp for the second offense of carrying a concealed weapon on the evening of December 13. A .32 revolver was found in his car. With Mike at the time of his arrest were Clemente, 24, 1307 North Milwaukee, and Martin Azzolina, 25, 2030 North Holton, who were taken in on vagrancy charges. Caruso told the officers that he had been followed that evening by two suspicious-looking Italians wearing overcoats and hats in a dark 1931 sedan on Water Street.
Pasquale Caruso died at 3:50am December 14, and Dieden told the newspaper that he thought Caruso was “insane” and “I think that the man who killed him deserves a gold medal.”
Later that day, detectives interviewed Peter Guardalabene (524 East Detroit Street), but were told that he knew nothing of the matter. (Decades later, an informant would say that Pete had ordered the killing because of a “feud” and that the killers were Peter Balistrieri — uncle of Frank Balistrieri — and Sam Ferrara. Interestingly, when the FBI heard this, Ferrara was still alive but there is no record of the police being notified.)
Detectives Bergin and English went to Waukesha on December 14 to conduct an investigation and found that Pasquale Caruso had been in the illegal alcohol business there for the past two or three years. He had previously operated a brewery at 1120 White Rock Avenue with Jerry DiVino, John LaVora (1643 North Jackson), Frank DeLuco and Dan DeAngelo. DiVino was now held by the Chicago police and the other three men were in Waupun prison for a holdup in West Bend, Wisconsin. At the time, Pasquale lived with the family of J. W. Lartz at 1110 White Rock before moving in with Pasquale “Patsy” Schirripa at 1090 White Rock. While living with Schirripa, Caruso would repeatedly make advances on his wife and suggested that she was a prostitute. She at one time snapped and fired three shots at him. This did not stop Caruso’s advances and she made thirteen complaints to the police about Caruso in the last year. The detectives also learned about Caruso being present at the murder of Phillip Sasso.
The Milwaukee officers questioned Schirripa and searched his home, but were satisfied by his alibi that he was with farmer Dan Coleman on the day of the shooting. Also interviewed was Carmen DeMarcantonio, husband of Marietta DiFiore. DeMarcantonio was Schirripa’s brother-in-law. They attempted to interview Joseph Volpano, but could not locate him. Everywhere the police went the people they talked to “all expressed the sentiment that [Caruso] should be dead”.
On December 17, Detective Kahn received information making Frank DeLucca (1643 North Jackson) a suspect in the murder, and Kahn advised his superiors to bring him in that same evening.
Peter Guardalabene was interviewed again on December 17 and he told Detective Kahn that “he had very little to do with Pasquale Caruso.” His only known connection was that he had possession of Caruso’s mother’s body following her death, and he told the police that besides embalming Mrs. Caruso, he did nothing else as the family could not afford a funeral.
Detectives English and Bergin searched Mike Caruso’s home above Harry Daniels’ barber shop at 1410 North Broadway on December 18 and found no evidence of a cigarette burglary. They also interviewed Phil Clemente, who knew nothing about the burglary either. The same day, Bergin and English were contacted by John Bruno, a bartender at Cinderella Tavern (639 West Juneau). Bruno told them that several times in November a long distance call came in from Caruso’s Tavern in Madison to the Cinderella Tavern. The calls were from Joseph LaGalbo to his son Paul LaGalbo, who worked at the Cinderella. A check revealed that the Caruso tavern in Madison had no connection to the Caruso family of Milwaukee.
Pasquale Caruso’s funeral was on Wednesday, December 19. Detectives Bergin and English asked Mrs. Josephine Fera, an aunt of Phil Clemente, to attend the funeral and report back any findings she had. Pallbearers were Phil Clemente, Peter Caruso and others. Mike Caruso attended, being escorted by a jail guard and a sheriff. Only about twenty people attended and Pasquale was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.
Bergin and English spoke with Agent Lane Maloney of the Treasury Department on the 19th, who suggested they talk to a dentist from Kewaskum who may be involved in the alcohol business with Milwaukee Italians. He also suggested looking more closely at the “Cavianni deal” in Rockford, Illinois as he believed that Cavianni was cooking alcohol in the Third Ward.
On December 20, Mike Caruso was sentenced to one to three years in Waupun for his concealed revolver. Mike’s attorney, Mario Megna, said that Caruso had the gun because his brother warned him that he may be a target. Mike pleaded with the judge to go to the house of correction to be near his wife of four months Leona and relatives, but Judge Nohl rejected his plea.
Also on the 20th, Bergin and English spoke with the King of Little Italy, Mike Vitucci (200 North Jefferson). Vitucci told them that Mike Caruso’s wife had visited him earlier in the week to sign a bond and she had two young Italians with her. He also said “he is positive an Italian did the shooting” but Caruso “had so many enemies that it was hard to find out who did the shooting.” The detectives reported that they believed “Vitucci knows more than he has told”.
Italian interpreter Mrs. Marietta Picciolo (1507 North Cass) spoke with Bergin and English on December 26 and told them she believed that the Caruso family was trying to steer the investigation of Pasquale’s murder to Waukesha but that the actual killers were living in Milwaukee.
Bergin and English questioned John LaVora (1625 North Marshall) on January 2, 1935. LaVora denied that he was ever a partner with Pasquale Caruso and said he “never had anything to do with Pasquale Caruso socially or in a business way.” The detectives reported they were “not satisfied with his story”. The next day, they questioned Vincent “One Armed Jimmie” Caggio, who told them on the night of the murder he was in the smoke shop when Caruso was there. The store was crowded, but he recalled that a man named Vacca was there with a brother Louie from out of town. The detectives were not able to figure out who these men were.
Detective Bergin spoke with Anthony Sansone, 22, 317 North Jackson, who said he was the owner of a Ford Sedan with license number 22318-34. Sansone admitted being in the alcohol business with Tony Costarella, 25, of 932 East Pleasant Street. Both men knew Pasquale Caruso and knew he was in the alcohol business, but knew nothing about his murder.
Joseph Gumina started employment at International Harvester as a stock man on January 14, 1935. He would remain there over thirty years, working his way up to torch brazer. Prior to IH, he worked at A. O. Smith.
Butcher Vincent Troia, 38, 2552 North 19th Street, was arrested on January 25, 1935 for drunk and disorderly conduct and fined $5. The FBI believed to be the same Vincent Troia who was a member of the Madison LCN, though why his address was in Milwaukee is unclear. (The Madison Troia was also 38 at the time, but was born in June — this one was listed as born in January.)
On Wednesday, March 20, 1935 at 9:00pm, Joseph LaRosa, 19, struck grocer Aaron Kantor, 53, over the head with a monkey wrench swatched in cloth. They were in a vacant lot behind Kantor’s store at 2247 North Holton Street. When Kantor cried out, LaRosa fled without the $200 still in Kantor’s pocket. Kantor was taken to the county hospital and pronounced in fair condition. Coincidentally, less than a week prior, vandals let the air out of Kantor’s tires.
Harry DeAngelo was picked up on March 21, 1935 and charged with disorderly conduct for not being able to give a satisfactory account of himself. With him were Mike Albano, Tony Maniaci and two other men.
Vito Aiello was arrested March 25, 1935 for assault and battery. The charges were dismissed.
Michael Farina, 21, was convicted of accessory to assault in Washington County on March 27, 1935. Judge C. M. Davison sentenced him to nine years in Waupun.
Joseph LaRosa, 19, 422 East Reservoir Avenue pleaded guilty and was convicted of assault and armed robbery on March 30, 1935. Assistant District Attorney Paul Stover suggested the House of Correction so LaRosa could be near his mother, the only good influence in his life. Judge Max Nohl said, “This is too serious a crime, and LaRosa is too great a menace to the community. At the house of correction the maximum sentence could be only five years. I beleive this boy needs ten years to straighten him out.” Nohl sentenced him to ten years in the state reformatory. Mrs. LaRosa allegedly fainted when hearing the sentence. (He would be paroled July 24, 1937.)
Joe Pessin was raided and arrested on April 13, 1935 for having $100,000 worth of counterfeit US and Canadian liquor stamps. For years, he had been fooling “discriminating” drinkers, giving them cheap booze with classy labels. Arrested along with him was Ralph Pessin (using the alias Ralph Peyton). The men had agreed to sell $200,000 worth of counterfeit stamps and seals to bootlegger Joe Clares and an undercover agent.
Joseph Spero was arrested on suspicion of assault and robbery on May 23, 1935 but was released.
Sam DiMaggio was called in to the police station on June 7, 1935 for an investigation and was released.
Nick Fucarino was arrested on suspicion of assault on June 21, 1935 but was released. Thomas Machi was arrested the same day for larceny and given a suspended sentence.
Walter Brocca got married in Milwaukee on July 6, 1935 by Reverend C. M. Kaminski. His wife (name unknown) was the daughter of Stephen Italiano and Fanney Alioto.
The Wisconsin Gas and Electric office in Cudahy was held up for $500 on July 10, 1935. Cashier Veronica Merkert would later identify Jack Enea as one of the men involved. Customer Mrs. A. J. Holland also identified Enea as the man who pushed her.
Carlo San Filippo, 19, was arrested in August 1935 on charges of sodomy. Lillian Zamorski, 14, told authorities that Cono Librizzi brought San Filippo and 13 other young men under the Holton Street bridge where they were “sucked off” by Zamorski. San Filippo denied this and said he avoided Zamorski, as she had a nasty reputation. San Filippo may not have even understood the charges, as he referred to what the girl allegedly did as “frenching”.
Salvatore DiMaggio was arrested on August 16, 1935 for disorderly conduct and fined $10. With him were Charles Proite, Cono Librizzi and John Italiano.
Juvenile Sam Librizzi was arrested September 13, 1935 for throwing stones at an automobile.
Salvatore DiMaggio was arrested for multiple counts of rape and sodomy on September 20, 1935 and was sentenced to three years in the Green Bay Reformatory.
Alex Dentice, 18, was convicted of two counts of rape, assault and armed robbery on September 26, 1935. Judge Max W. Nohl sentenced him to three years in the state reformatory. The same day, Frank Maniaci, 19, was convicted of rape and sentenced to 16 months in the state reformatory by Judge Nohl.
Michael Albano was arrested for assault and robbery on September 27, 1935, and turned over to Washington County. According to Albano, they brought him in, looked at him, and released him.
On Thursday, October 3, 1935, Madison’s Pasquale Provenzano, 38, was arrested in a Racine liquor raid at a grocery store. Police believed the store was a “depot” between Milwaukee, Chicago and other cities. They found four gallons of alcohol and six bottles of unstamped liquor labeled “sloe gin”. A shotgun, three revolvers and ammunition were confiscated. Also arrested were: Ignazio Terrano, 43, of Racine; store clerk Anne Italiano, 22, of Milwaukee; John Seidita, 20, 338 North Jefferson Street; and Michele Oliveri Clemente (or Oliver Clemente), 40, of Racine. Provenzano was eventually fined $200. Clemente had a .32 revolver in his waistband and said he needed it for “protection”. He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon.
Frank Stelloh and George Moeslaher held up Dr. Edward H. Springborn, on October 12, 1935. Springborn, a dentist, had his hands tied with sash cord in his office at 1134 West State Street. The bandits made off with a purse containing $70.
Frank Stelloh and Joseph Makkos held up Dr. C. R. May in his Hales Corners dentist office on November 4, 1935. They stole $20 from him and took off in his automobile.
On Friday, November 8, 1935, Louis Maniaci, 25, Jack Enea, 26, John Damore, 35, Anthony Clemente, 24, and Dominic Picciurro were arrested for robbing the tavern of Ed S. Burroughs in Pewaukee. After ordering beers, the gang turned violent. Bartender Oscar “Barney” Kolander, caretaker Elizabeth McGovern and patron Frank Horning were backed against a wall at the point of a gun. Kolander gave the men a key to a cabinet where two broken gambling devices were. The men stole a slot machine and $50 worth of nickels and quarters. They escaped in a truck and a car, but were chased by police down Blue Mound Road and forced into the ditch. They tossed a pistol out the window as they drove, and it was recovered by Chester Mastenbrook of Milwaukee. One of the men confessed to being part of a gang responsible for slot machines thefts throughout the greater Milwaukee area.
On November 13, 1935, Milwaukee police arrested Giuseppe Tomaso Lubue (aka Tom Lupo), suspected of being in the same gang as the men who robbed Ed Burroughs. Lubue, 1759 Warren Avenue, was identified by William Kliebe as the man who robbed his tavern (the Cat and Fiddle on Blue Mound Road in Waukesha County) and knocked out several of his teeth.
Milwaukee hoodlums Angelo Kleronomos (or sometimes Kleros), 24, and Joseph Scaffido (sometimes Scaffidi), 28, 522 East Reservoir Avenue, were shot in an automobile on November 15, 1935 in front of 2121 Custer Street in Chicago. The car belonged to Basilio Cusma, Scaffido’s uncle, who lived in the same duplex as the men. They had been followed by another car and forced to pull over. Witnesses say that the two men seemed to recognize their two attackers, as they spoke in friendly tones before the attackers pulled guns and shot the Milwaukee hoods. In Kleronomos’ pocket was found a note expressing affection for his wife, Frances, but also saying he couldn’t quit the racket because “it’s in my blood and there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” Chicago police, who believed the Milwaukeeans were trying to “muscle in” on the Chicago alcohol racket, later (March 1936) arrested Chicago hoodlum Marshall Caifano, 24, for questioning, and then release him to federal authorities for alcohol violations. Kleronomos — an associate of Caifano — was previously arrested for advising a felony (as noted above), and both slain men had supplied stolen cars for bank robberies throughout Wisconsin.
On the evening of November 17, the police were trying to find a 25-year old Polish girl named Tessie who was believed to be Joseph Scaffidi’s girlfriend. The police believed she might know more about the associates of the men.
Louis Fazio was arrested in Waukesha on November 20, 1935 for assaulting Willard Kliebe, the proprietor of the Cat and Fiddle night club. Fazio had been trying to steal two slot machines. He was released on $3500 bond. When the case went to court, Fazio pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months hard labor by Judge David Evans.
On Saturday, November 23, 1935, the Chicago police detained Robert VanSant, 41, and William Lattos, 45, for questioning in the deaths of Scaffidi and Kleros. Also detained was Helen Rzeppa, 25, who was using the alias Mrs. Grace VanSant. Chicago Police Captain John Horan speculated that the men were killed for hijacking slot machines in Walworth County belonging to George (Bugs) Moran. Horan did not think they were killed by rival Milwaukee bootleggers.
Steve Tarantino was paroled from the state reformatory on November 28, 1935.
Around November 1935, Salvatore Vento, 19, was arrested for attempted larceny. Vento wanted to take his girl out on a date, so he borrowed a 1925 Chevrolet Imperial Sedan from his brother Frank, 21. Frank allegedly bought the car from a man named Ray Monsen for $15, but never had the title transferred. (Salvatore’s father, Angelo Vento, and his paternal uncle (name unknown) had prior records for bootlegging.)
Peter Tarantino spent Christmas Eve 1935 in jail after police found a half gallon jug of whiskey on the steps of his grocery store, 1725 North Marshall Street. Charges were soon dropped, however, as there was no way to prove whose whiskey it was.
Jack DiMaggio, 2345 North Humboldt, was arrested in his car in an alley behind his home on December 26, 1935. The car held 15 gallons of untaxed alcohol.
A tavern in Racine County was robbed on December 28, 1935 by the “collegiate boys” gang. Four men entered the tavern and said, “We’re the collegiate boys. We’re just trying to work our way through college.” They received a samll amount of cash, merchandise and a radio. The same words were used in robberies in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Kenosha and Jefferson counties. Soon, four men would be named as the Collegiate Boys: Jack Enea, 26; Louis Maniaci, 25; Dominic Picciurro, 20; and John D’Amore.
Frank Stelloh and Joseph Makkos got into the automobile of Dr. Weber C. Hermann on February 29, 1936 while it was in Greenfield. They took approximately $100 from him and then ran off.
Jack Enea and Dominic Picciurro were convicted in Waukesha County on March 16, 1936 for unarmed assault, theft and larceny stemming from their Pewaukee incident and were sentenced by Judge Newton W. Evans to eight years in Waupun State Prison. Tony Clemente was given four years. Louis Maniaci and John D’Amore each received five years. Enea and D’Amore had been connected to a Racine County tavern holdup, but charges were dismissed when witnesses could not identify them.
Rocco Maglio, 21, was arrested on March 27, 1936 for being an inmate of a gambling house. He was fined $5. He was arrested again on April 7 for suspicion of receiving stolen property, but was released.
Frank Stelloh and Joseph Makkos held up Dr. Cecil Hake on May 8, 1936. He was waiting for a traffic light to change and the two bandits got $38 off of him. (Hake would decades later get very negative publicity when his son shoots a Wauwatosa fireman.)
On Monday, May 11, 1936, city real estate agent Edward Grieb submitted to the Common Council an offer from the Pere Marquette railroad to acquire five and a half acres of city land for $75,000 in order to build a terminal. The land was just north of the Kinnickinnic Avenue bridge and featured 386 feet of river dock frontage. The city had purchased it off the defunct Thomas Furnace Company two years prior. For the deal to go through, two leases had to terminated: Schneider Fuel and Supply had an acre rented at $100 per month, and the Milwaukee Cinder Company (operated by Giuseppe and Frank Balistrieri) had two acres rented for $25 per month. Grieb said he did not know why the Balistrieri brothers had more land for less rent, as that deal was not handled by him but by someone on the council.
The Milwaukee County Board passed a resolution on May 26, 1936 creating the Milwaukee Metropolitan Crime Prevention Commission. It was “an unofficial body composed of ten members; five to be appointed by the Mayor of the City of Milwaukee, and five by the Chairman of the Milwaukee County Board. There is no specific tenure of office.” Over the next three decades, this group would have little impact, focusing its attentions on “stranger danger”, obscene literature and the importance of locking automobiles. They specifically tried to ban Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” and “Sin on Wheels”.
The Spiro Tavern (South 22nd Street, Sheboygan, in what is known as “Lyman’s Flats”) was robbed on Thursday, August 6, 1936. Proprietor James Spiro, and patrons Mr. and Mrs. Carl Buenzow were bound by three men with radio wire while a fourth waited in the car. $100 was taken, along with a few slot machines and some alcohol. A pinball machine and an orthophonic were smashed in order to get the nickels out of them. Foolishly, one of the gang dropped a Milwaukee business card with addresses of two girls on the back, and Sheboygan Sheriff Joseph Dreps and Deputy Sheriff Constant Juckem made quick raids of Milwaukee apartment buildings and found the guilty parties. Those arrested were Isadore “Charles” Crupi, 40, 2426 North Bartlett Avenue, brother of vice lord Vincent Crupi; Lawrence Quartana, 27, 228 North Milwaukee Street; Pasquale Rosetti, 22, 188 North Milwaukee Street; and Frank Bruno, 27, 315 North Jackson Street. Police also found bottles of alcohol bearing Sheboygan stamps with the men. Rosetti had recently escaped from the Dodge County Jail by removing bricks from the wall. Within a week (on August 11), Crupi was sentenced to six years in Waupun state prison by Judge Henry A. Detling.
Attorney James Sammarco petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday, August 19, 1936 on behalf of Maniaci, Damore, Enea, Picciurro and Clemente. He argued that the men could not be held for grand larceny because the slot machines could only be considered junk. Although they were given value of $450 each, this would be an unlawful price seeing as slot machines were illegal.
Police Chief Jacob G. Laubenheimer died of a heart attack on Sunday August 23, 1936 while at his vacation home in Eagle River. He had been on the force since 1893 and was promoted to chief in 1921, overseeing the Prohibition and Depression years of Milwaukee. President Hoover’s Wickersham Commission had once said, “Milwaukee has the most efficient and cleanest police department in this country” and was the only city “deserving unqualified endorsement”.
On September 2, 1936, Chicago hoodlum Dominick DiBella was arrested by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office for being an inmate of a gambling house. The police had raided six gambling operations that day and arrested 245 men. Henry Hansher helped bail all the gamblers out, putting up part of the $10,170 needed to free everyone.
There was a shooting at the Garden Tavern (1241 North Water) on the morning of Monday, September 21, 1936. A car honk caught the attention of Cesare Cortese, 36, 1019-A East Brady, who went to the door and was wounded in the scalp by a volley of shotgun slugs. He fired back with a pistol. Also in the bar at the time was bartender Antonio Monpredi. While the shooters were not named, police said the assault happened because of Cesare’s failure to pay tribute to blackmailers. The police also suspected the men were Cortese’s business rivals — he operated a phonograph rental service. Cortese would offer the machines, valued at $295, to “chicken shacks” and bars featuring “come-on” girls. The Garden tavern, owned by Felice and Beatrice Cortese, had its license revoked shortly thereafter. The decision was not difficult, as Felice had over 40 convictions on his record and Cortese had gotten in trouble with prostitution in the past.
(When?) The Common Council granted a liquor license to Paul Mazzara over the objections of the Milwaukee police. The police believed Mazzara was acting as a “stooge” or “blind” for Paul and Frank LaGalbo. However, Mazzara was able to produce positive character witnesses and showed a bill of sale for the tavern at 639 West Juneau Avenue. (Frank LaGalbo’s step-mother was Gaetana Mazzara.)
John Rizzo was laid off by the J. I. Case Company on October 5, 1936 after 11 years of employment. His final position was assembler, but there was a lack of work. Around this time, he broke his left leg and would walk with a limp the rest of his life. (Exactly when or how he broke his leg is unknown to me — it was allegedly in his early 20s.)
Angelo Guardalabene, 46, 522 East Detoit Street, died at St. Mary’s Hospital on Friday, October 30, 1936 following a weeklong illness after an operation. At the time of his death he was the manager of a wholesale liquor firm. He was remembered for being a clerk for County Judge Michael S. Sheridan for eight years, and for being superintendent of the city’s garbage disposal plant for ten years. He was the operator of the Monte Carlo cafe in Milwaukee and the Riviera Resort on Lake Nagawicka. Angelo was a candidate for county supervisor in 1932. He was also a member of the Italian-American alliance, the Society Madonna del Lume of Porticello, and the Pompeii Athletic Club. He was survived by his wife Veronica, sister Mrs. Anna Aiello, and brother Giovanni B. Guardalabene, the funeral director.
Anthony LaRosa, 18, was arrested on November 13, 1937 (???) for rape and put on two years probation.
John Rizzo was arrested January 9, 1937 in Racine for being the inmate of a gambling house. He was fined $5.
Harry DeAngelo was arrested in Ozaukee County January 15, 1937 on rape charges and sentenced to two years in Waupun prison.
Michael Enea was arrested on February 25, 1937 for suspicion of burglary, but was released.
Wholesale fruit dealer Harry DeAngelo was convicted on March 8, 1937 of adultery. Ozaukee County Judge C. Davison sentenced him to two years in Waupun prison.
On March 10, 1937, West Allis police arrested Frank Stelloh, 24, 645 South 69th Street; Joseph Makkos, 28, 7132A West Adler Street; Steve Makkos, 26, 2211 North 14th Street; and George Moeslaher, 22, of 449 South 68th Street. The police had traced a stolen check Joseph Makkos cashed at Frank Killian’s tavern to a liquor truck that had been held up. Five cases of whiskey were found in Stelloh’s garage, and guns were found in a trunk owned by Joseph Makkos. Stelloh was also charged with the theft of an automobile and a motorcycle. The gang admitted to twelve hold-ups (including those of doctors and dentists and as far away as Madison and Mukwonago), six automobile thefts, three motorcycle thefts and three burglaries. They also admitted to stealing a tow truck to haul a safe from a filling station at 76th and Adler. Police recovered radios, cameras, suits of clothes and more, including items traced to the kidnapping and robbery of Sherman Shamiska, 21, on March 4. (A more thorough list of crimes appears in the March 11 Milwaukee Sentinel — at some point I should add these.)
Rocco Maglio was arrested for suspicion of safe burglary on March 28, 1937 but was released.
John Volpe, 16, was arrested for larceny on April 3, 1937.
Carl J. Aiello, 23, August Chiaverotti, 27, and James Evans of Chicago, 26, robbed the Alice King tavern in Minnesota Junction (Dodge County) on April 12, 1937. They took $2000 in money, liquor and jewelry. Aiello would later (September 28) be sentenced to three years in Waupun by Judge C. M. Davison. (Aiello was born June 13, 1914 in Chicago but was a Milwaukee resident… not sure his relation to any other Aiello.)
Joseph Makkos, 28, and Frank Stelloh, a German-Polish welder, 24, were convicted of six counts of armed robbery and two counts of larceny on April 21, 1937. Judge C. M. Davison sentenced them to twenty years in Waupun State Prison. Stelloh would only end up serving three years. George Moeslaher, 22, was sentenced to ten years.
Carl J. Aiello, 23, August Chiaverotti, 27, and James Evans of Chicago, 26, robbed Lester J. Eifler’s florist shop at 3152 North 52st Street on May 8, 1937. Eifler had deposited his money earned from Mother’s Day at 7:45pm and a pair of men in smoked glasses came in at 8:10pm. The pair pointed guns at Eifler and said, “Just a minute! Hold up your hands. This is a holdup.” One man kept his gun on Eifler while the other took $32 from the register. The two men then ran across the street to a “new, high priced automobile” with no license plates where the third man was waiting. Shortly after midnight, Detectives George Pelzman and Arthur Steckling saw a car matching the description. The man inside (presumably Chiaverotti) was with a woman he claimed was his wife. In the back seat were dark glasses and a revolver. Aiello had the charges dropped against him, but the other two were given lengthy prison sentences. Chiaverotti was sentenced to 3-9 years by Judge Max W. Nohl and served two years in Waupun prison and another four years on parole.
Omaha-born John B. Triliegi, son of Bruno Triliegi and Concetta Trovato, married Stefani Balistrieri in Milwaukee in May 1937. (Her relationship, if any, to the criminal Balistrieri family is unclear.)
On the early morning of Tuesday, June 8, 1937, Frank LaGalbo (of 416 East Juneau Avenue) and Michele Mineo were with William Jack Dentice at the Miami Club (618 East Clybourn Street). Later, around 1:50am, Dentice was found dead, shot in the head and upper left arm. The body was left in Dentice’s Ford V8 at the corner of North Jefferson and East Menomonee. Police immediately arrested LaGalbo, and Dentice’s clothes were sent to Professor J. H. Matthews in Madison for examination. LaGalbo’s hands were given wax impressions by Detective Elmer Kahn, and it was shown that gunpowder was on his hands — he had recently fired a gun. Police suspected two men were involved — one held Dentice’s hair while the other man shot him.
Michele Mineo was arrested on a charge of murder on June 21 at 1:30pm, having been with Dentice earlier that evening. Charges against him were dropped in District Court on July 16, 1937. An informant, decades later, told the FBI that the murder was carried out by Mineo, LaGalbo and Andrew DiSalvo. The motive was that Dentice was getting money from a union and was supposed to give DiSalvo part of the money, but did not. Although Mineo was alive when the FBI heard this, there is no evidence that they told the police.
Prison Confession of Tony Gennaro
The police received the biggest break they could have hoped for on July 4, 1937 when Antonio “Tony” Gennaro, 34, an inmate at Waupun, sent a letter to Milwaukee’s captain of detectives, Adolph W. Kraemer. Gennaro had been sentenced to Waupun for assault and armed robbery in Ozaukee County. He wrote:
“Dear Adolph, Finally I have the opportunity to drop a few lines to you. I observed in the newspaper about Mr. William J. Dentice who was slayed last month. I am very sorry that this had to happen.”
“If you are interested in this matter and you want to find out about Dentice, you can go and see Mrs. Grace Gennaro; she lives at 1674 North Marshall Street, Milwaukee, Wis. After you have questioned her you will find out many important things concerning the argument that Jack Dentice and Frank LaGalbo had. At the time of the argument, Dentice and his woman lived with me and my wife, Grace Gennaro. The argument between Dentice and LaGalbo took palce inLaGalbo’s tavern at 639 West Juneau Avenue. When they were in the argument, they started to fight in LaGalbo’s tavern and then the fight was finished in my house. My wife and Jack’s woman and I were present at this argument.”
“If you want to talk with me about them, I would liek to talk to you alone. Please don’t tell anyone about my name, because I am a prisoner and there are many Italian fellows from the Third Ward here; keep quiet and afterward you will find out many important things concerning them.”
“P.S. Mr. Kraemer, if you will go and see Mrs. Grace Gennaro about this investigation, you do not tell her anything about me, because in 1935 she obtained a divorce and after she got a divorce she has been associating with several fellows from the Third Ward.”
“My best friends from the Third Ward took my wife away from me; she deserted me while I was in prison. She and her boy friends have been at the immigration bureau many times. It seems they want me to be deported.”
“Now, she obtained marry [sic] again with a certain Philip Dineo who lives at 1664 North Marshall Street. Never would I have expected such actions from the big shots of from the Third Ward, but everybody will repay for it. In the future, you will find out many and many important things for which they are responsible. Respectfully, Tony Gennaro.”
Kraemer responded on July 12, probably not aware of the depth of Gennaro’s knowledge. He wrote:
“Dear Tony, I have received your letter, and in accordance with your suggestion, I wish that I could make a visit to the Prison and personally see you, but due to the pressure of police business here, I am unable to get away.”
“I am therefore sending, as my personal representative, Detective Lawrence Bailey of this Department, who I assure you is entirely trustworthy, and you may confide in him, and tell him everything that you would have told me; and he will relay such information to me upon his return. You have my assurance, and that of Detective Bailey, that whatever you say, will be regarded in the highest confidence, and will be guarded with utmost secrecy.”
“I need hardly tell you that any assistance you may give through such confidential information that will lead to clearance of major crimes committed by local Italians will be appreciated.”
Detective Bailey went to Waupun immediately to see Gennaro and was able to get a written statement from him. Bailey’s report to Kraemer on July 13 is as follows:
“Sir, At Waupun, Wis., Monday July 12th, 1937, interviewed inmate Tony Gennaro who had written us of his impression of the motive for the murder of Jack Dentice.”
“Gennaro’s written statement of conditions in 1934 is attached. From my interview with Gennaro, I am satisfied that he has intimate knowledge of a number of the activities of local and other Italians. He was prone to divulge details but explained that a $17,000 fee for setting a local fire was divided in his presence. Gennaro had a list of Italians who, he claimed, had committed numerous serious crimes, such as murders, arso nand holdups. He had the names checked for each crime the individual had committed. Gennaro would not let me see this list, but gave me the attached list of crimes he wanted verified and then he claims he will divulge details proving who committed them. He claims Milwaukee’s big boss is Joe Vallone, a local wholesale grocer. Pete Guardalabene is second in command. Mike Mineo is also a local “big boss”. LaGalbo is a “little boss”. Andrew DiSalvo is the Racine, Wis. “big boss”. Gennaro claims these “big bosses” order underlings to commit these crimes but would tell no more at present about them.”
“His former wife Grace, who is now married to an Italian concertina player and living in Milwaukee, could give us details of the present local situation if we could make her talk. He would not say much about her activities, but is very bitter towards the local “big shots” from the Third Ward. He beleives they had her divorce him, as his friends wrote him that she was out stepping with the “big bosses” when he was sent to prison. She is an Italian girl.”
“Gennaro claims that a Carl Dane, who was arrested with him in January 1933, is wanted in St. Louis for murder, but would not give any details until the above mentioned list of crimes are verified.”
“Gennaro requested that he be deported at once, but this request was not granted. Now he is very anxious to be put on parole in September of this year.”
“My impression of Gennaro is that he may be able to help us solve the Pasquale Caruso murder and other local crimes committed by this gang that happened before 1934 when he went to prison, as he was very intimate with their activities then and is very bitter towards them at present because of hsi wife divorcing him and the lack of assistance from local Italians to gain his freedom. Respectfully submitted, Lawrence Bailey.”
Bailey understood how important Gennaro’s knowledge could be. What he did not realize — and could not have realized — is how important such a confession could be historically. Joseph Valachi was celebrated in the 1960s for spilling the beans on the New York mob families… but Gennaro did the same thing three decades sooner concerning the crimes of the Midwest. Had the police followed up more on his statement, perhaps the Milwaukee Mafia would have been crushed…
Regarding the murder of Jack Dentice, Gennaro wrote:
“In 1934, Jack Dentice was my partner and we were selling alcohol. Him and I were always in agreement. One day we were in an argument with the gang from the Third Ward. A days later Jack told me, ‘Tony, they will have a picnic and they want me and you to be there, too.’ I thought for several minutes and then told my partner that I didn’t want to go, but he could go if he wanted to. So Jack left me in my home with my wife and his girl, because at that time Jack and his girl lived with me.”
“I refused to go there because I figured there was something wrong. Never before had they invited me to their picnic and we were always having arguments about the alcohol business. So this picnic made me suspect that they were probably ready to kill me and Jack both.”
“When Jack went to meet them and they did not see me with him, they quickly changed their minds and no longer wanted to have a picnic in the country. They went to LaGalbo’s tavern at 639 West Juneau and had dinner. During dinner, LaGalbo and Jack got into an argument about girls and LaGalbo told Jack that his girl was a prostitute and that she worked for his uncle, Vince Crupi.”
“When Jack heard what LaGalbo said about his girl, he became mad. He came home very mad and a little drunk, and began to search for his gun to shoot Frank and Frank’s gang in the Third Ward. The next day, Jack’s girl ran away because she was afraid to live with Jack after what LaGalbo had said about her.”
“Jack was sentenced to be killed by order of the big shot. LaGalbo has three taverns, but the licenses are with different names. Many beautiful girls work at these taverns for him, and trouble is always happening at these places.”
But this knowledge of Dentice’s murder was just the tip of the iceberg. One might expect Gennaro to know about the death of someone who was his partner in crime. But he then dropped the biggest bombshell of all… eight things he knew that the “big shots” were behind:
- In 1930, a man named John was murdered in his garage in Des Moines, Iowa. The contract between the gangsters and big shots was $2800 for this murder, but only $1050 was paid out.
- In 1932, Angelo Tarello was murdered in his car near Rockford, Ill. He was the father of two children and lived in Kenosha, Wis. The contract between the gangsters and the big shots was $7000 for Tarello to be murdered. The big shots paid the money. (A colleague informs me that Tarello was killed a few miles north of Oregon, Illinois and a witness said the car that held the killers had Rockford tags on the license plates. Supposedly, he was moving in on Rockford’s liquor territory. A few years earlier two Rockford liquor investigators, the Dotz brothers, had been involved with Tarello in a robbery of a Kenosha theater. Tarello’s first cousin was Jimmy “the Bomber” Catuara — a Chicago Outfit member who was murdered in July 1978. Coincidentally, Angelo Tarello’s sister Vincenza married Filippo Salamone and they lived in Rockford just a few houses away from capo Tony Musso.)
- In 1933, Rocco Siciliano was murdered in the road near Madison, Wis. He lived in Springfield, Ill.
- In 1933, $150 was offered for Pasquale Caruso to be murdered. Later, Caruso was slain in Milwaukee.
- A man named Lobianco was murdered and buried on a farm near Davenport, Iowa.
- In June 1933, men working for the big shots held up a bank in Des Moines and escaped with $10,000. One of them was murdered by a deputy and $2000 was found in his shoes. (This checked out — there was a bank robbery in Knoxville, a town southeast of Des Moines, and a man was killed escaping with money found in his clothes.)
- Another hold up was scheduled for Davenport, Iowa in 1934. This was a mail truck with lots of money. Gennaro was not sure if the theft ever happened because he went to prison.
- On March 28, 1933 Gennaro got married and lived with Carl Dane on Roges Street in West Allis. Gennaro says that Dane was in the gang and this is where he found out what he knows. Several times gangsters from Illinois would stay at their home and these men were involved in extortion, kidnapping, fires and murders. Dane and his wife fled the state.
Gennaro also had four events he was not sure happened but wanted the police to verify:
- A Mexican fellow was shot while walking down the street in Kenosha. He was hit by four bullets and spent several months in the hospital. The Italian gang was responsible, but a Greek man was arrested and convicted, sentenced to 7 years in Waupun.
- In Winter, 1927, a teenage girl was walking down the street near the police station at 9 o’clock at night and her face was cut by an Italian because she refused to go out with him.
- In 1929, Anthony Ausolotti was shot while walking near an old church in Kenosha. He had four children in Italy and was killed by order of the big shots. (This event was confirmed — Tony Lanzilotti was murdered February 17, 1929; shot through the head while on church steps.)
- Since 1924, twelve to fifteen men were murdered in Kenosha by the same hands and always by command of the big shots. These men are connected to Des Moines, Madison, Milwaukee, Davenport, Kenosha, Springfield, Rockford and Kansas City.
Looking into the identity of Carl Dane, Detective Bailey found that no one by that name was known. However, Gennaro had been arrested in January 1933 with a Carlo Galati. A letter from the FBI told Milwaukee that Galati was arrested in St. Louis in 1936 for violating the liquor laws, this time under the name Carlo Diliberato. What further action was taken is unknown.
Rocco Maglio was arrested on September 19, 1937 as a suspect in an assault and rape, but was released.
Salvatore Seidita, still a juvenile, was arrested around December 1937 in Racine for auto larceny. He was placed on probation.
Antonio Albano left his job at the Bureau of Streets and Sanitation on December 1, 1937 to take a year off to visit Sicily. He ended up getting caught up in World War II and could not return to Milwaukee for eight years.
Juvenile Sam Librizzi was arrested on December 13, 1937 for sneaking into a theater and was sent to the Detention Home.
Anthony LaRosa, 20, was arrested December 22, 1937 for rape. He was still on probation from his previous rape.
The Checker Express Company, 1446 North Jefferson, was robbed on January 4, 1938 by William Giacalone, John Prediger and Dominic Vitrano. $75 of this theft went to John Picciurro (1523 North Jackson) after the fact. Picciurro and Nick Fucarino (who operated a tavern at 1634 North Water) also advised the men to burglarize the Genaro and Levithan Produce Company in Sheboygan on April 8, but they were scared off before they could break in. Fucarino was arrested on May 2, but charges against Picciurro and Fucarino were later dropped.
On January 26, 1938, Governor LaFollette reduced Jack Enea’s eight year sentence to six years.
Sam Librizzi was arrested for suspicion of larceny on February 11, 1938 but was released the next day by Sergeant Louis Dieden.
Anthony Maddente, 19, a brother-in-law to Frank Sorrenti, was arrested around March 1938 after trying to have sexual intercourse with Theresa Puccio, 13. The attempt failed because she was “too small”. He was also arrested for stealing about $100 worth of clothes from a truck in Cedarburg along with LeRoy Hoffman. Maddente was put on two years probation, but violated this when he and five others burglarized the abandoned Illinois Steel Company in Bay View and stole $500 worth of copper.
Bruno Ramazini, 20, was arrested in Milwaukee on March 10, 1938 and sent to Chicago where he was wanted for murder. The charges were apparently dropped as he was back in Milwaukee shortly thereafter.
Jerome “Momo” DiMaggio and Clarence Viebranz were arrested for assault and robbery on March 14, 1938. They were released.
Thomas Machi was arrested on March 17, 1938 for disorderly conduct and released.
On April 2, 1938, Louis Fazio and Frank Sansone burned down Anna Shibosh’s Colonial Club in Waukesha.
Jerome DiMaggio, 1508 East Kane Place, burglarized Boulevard Cleaners and Dyers at 3101 West Cameron Avenue on April 23, 1938. He stole $239.64.
On Monday, May 2, 1938, the police disclosed that they had arrested nine men between the ages of 20 and 30 over the weekend and were trying to connect them to 25 safe lootings over the last six months. Five burglaries were already admitted to: Babcock Auto Spring Company October 25, $305; Waukesha Roxo Company December 11, $120; Checker Express Company January 5, $247; Habhegger Wheel and Axle Company February 24, nothing taken; and Boulevard Cleaning and Dyeing Company April 23, $200. Frank Leo Sansone was arrested and turned over to Sheriff Walter Liskowitz of Waukesha County. Sansone was released. Also caught were Jack Enea and Jerome DiMaggio. By the end of June, they rounded up John Prediger, William Giacalone, Dominic Vitrano, Nick Fucarino and John Picciurro.
On Friday, May 6, 1938, Mariano Megna signed the $2500 bond holding Frank Sansone and Louis Fazio for their arson charges. Mario Megna, their attorney, was Mariano’s son. A preliminary hearing was set for May 13. (Newspaper records on this are scant, but the case appears to have ragged out for two years and was eventually dismissed for lack of evidence.)
Bruno Ramazini, 20, was arrested for assault and armed robbery on June 18, 1938 and sentenced to two and a half years in the Green Bay Reformatory.
Frank LaGalbo was referred to immigration officers in Chicago on July 8, 1938 for deportation…
Salvatore DiMaggio was arrested for larceny on October 6, 1938 and was given six months probation.
Michele (Mike) Vitucci, the “king of Little Italy”, died of a lung infection on Wednesday, October 19, 1938 at the age of 68 in his home at 200 North Jefferson Street. He had been a patient at Muirdale Sanatorium and was receiving blood transfusions, but when death became imminent he was sent home. Vitucci had a colorful history, leaving Bari, southeast Italy in 1894 to run a coffee plantation in Brazil. He finally arrived in Milwaukee in 1903 with his wife Rose. He was a tavern keeper (opening a tavern at Jackson and Buffalo in 1908) and restauranteur before going into real estate. He was prominent among the Italian community and would help immigrants find work. Police credited Vitucci with helping to reduce the murders caused by the “Black Hand” from 1910-1921. Mike was survived by his wife Rose, son Frank, and daughters Anna Maroia, Philomena Capriola, Florence Jennaro, Jeanette Alaimo, Grace Vitucci and Bernice Vitucci.
Salvatore Farina, Jr., only 8 years old, was arrested on November 6, 1938 for larceny and sent to the Detention Home. He spent most of his childhood in the Detention Home, being arrested for burglary, purse snatching and “indecent liberties with a female minor” over the next decade.
Frank LaGalbo was ordered deported on January 24, 1939 for his connection to a house of prostitution. The deportation ordered was discharged on February 20.
On March 10, 1939, Benny DiSalvo, 22, entered Samuel Gaginello’s tavern and asked Gaginello for the $10 that he owed him. Gaginello said he had no money, so DiSalvo suggested that Gaginello give him the diamond ring he was wearing for security. Gaginello agreed, but five days later reported DiSalvo for theft. In fact, Gaginello said that DeSalvo and Michael Paul Enea pointed a loaded revolver at him and demanded the ring, valued at $200. (Of interest is that Ben’s father, Gaetano “Thomas” DiSalvo, 323 North Jackson, was a Milwaukee sanitation employee.)
Michael Enea would be picked up by police on March 31, 1939. Benny DiSalvo was convicted of assault and armed robbery on April 11, 1939 and sentenced to two years in the Green bay State Reformatory by Judge Max W. Nohl. Enea was sentenced to two and a half years in the House of Correction
August Maniaci was arrested by the US Marshals in Madison and sent to the Secret Service in Chicago on May 25, 1939 for conspiracy to possess and pass counterfeits. He was fined $100.
Jack Enea was paroled from Waupun on May 27, 1939.
Alioto in New York
On June 13, 1939, Deputy Inspector Michael F. McDermott arrested four crooks in Brooklyn: Frank Sbeglia, 46, a real estate broker at 164 Kane Street; Charles Fishgold, 65, of 1849 80th Street; Mrs. Barbara Oddario, 36, of 146 Amity Street; and Josephine Sbeglia, 42, Frank’s wife.
Sbeglia had the idea to use an elderly man afflicted with cancer and heart disease, Alfredo Oddario, in a life insurance scam against Prudential Life Insurance. Oddario lived in a furnished room run by Fishgold. They had another man, who was healthy, take a physical exam for Oddario in February 1936, getting two life insurance claims for $5000 a piece. The healthy man later married Barbara McAndrews on March 9, 1938 — and she had her name changed to Oddario. When Alfredo Oddario passed on February 6, 1939, Barbara walked into the insurance company with the death certificate and claimed “her” $10,000. Sbeglia gave her $1000, but refused to give her husband a cut — leading him to report the fraud to the insurance company, and they in turn told the police.
Detectives went to the home of Frank’s brother, Mariano Sbeglia, 55, of 1658 74th Street, Brooklyn at 11:00am. There he was arrested, along with Milwaukee hoods Michael Amato and John Alioto, for violating the Sullivan law — all three men had pistols sitting on a writing desk. The Sullivan Act required licenses for New Yorkers to possess firearms small enough to be concealed. Possession of such firearms without a license was a misdemeanor, carrying them was a felony. Sbeglia had an Automatique Modele 1920 caliber 6-35, marked action #30379 fully loaded with 6-25 caliber cartridges. Alioto had a .38 caliber Colt Police Positive Special #148423 fully loaded with six .38 caliber cartridges. Amato’s pistol of choice was a fully loaded .32 Colt. What connection did Alioto and Amato have to the Sbeglias? What were hoods from Milwaukee doing crashing in the apartment of a Brooklyn man? This mystery remains unsolved.
Racine Sheriff’s Office pulled over a vehicle on August 13, 1939. Driving was Chicago boss Frank Nitto, and his passenger was Louis Fratto. Nitto tried to bribe his way out of a traffic ticket and was arrested. He was released on $210 bond. Fratto was held as a material witness and released on $50 bond. Fratto told the officer he was born in Milwaukee and was the son of John Farrell of Boston, neither of which were true. He said he was living at the Chamberlain Hotel in Des Moines, which probably was true.
Frank Leo Sansone was arrested August 28, 1939 for being the inmate of a gambling house at 617 North 6th Street. He was fiend $5.
Alderman Martin M. Higgins came under fire from the City Council on August 31, 1939 when it came to light he had city employees working on private projects for him. Higgins had used the municipal garage for oi land gasoline purchases, as well as repairs on his personal automobile, and still owed $48.72. George W. Ishmael, assistant foreman of the second ward, testified that Higgins had ordered a city crew to dig a basement under his kitchen in May 1938. When Ishmael arrived at the home (1824 West State), he found three city workers digging and an employee of Balistrieri Brothers hauling away the dirt. One of the diggers was John Loock. The crew worked for three days and hauled away five trailer loads of dirt. Higgins did not pay the men or offer them drinks, but he did provide them with cigars. Ishmael reported this to his superior, ward foreman August Thiessenhusen, who declined to pass it on to the council at the time. (Although threatened with impeachment, Higgins apparently served his full term and was defeated the following year. He would run again many times, both as a Republican and Democrat, but would never return to office.)
Ernest Sansone, 36, of Chicago came to Racine in September 1939 and “hijacked” slot machines at the Meadowbrook Country Club. While originally identified by witnesses, memories became hazy after a bribe of $1000 was raised by a Chicago gambler and a corrupt Chicago police officer. At trial, caretaker Alex Barry said, “He looks like one of the men, but I can’t swear that he is.” Golf pro Henry Kaiser also suddenly “forgot”.
John Triliegi, 25, was arrested for “carnal knowledge and abuse” (statutory rape) on October 24, 1939. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced by Judge John J. Gregory to five years probation.
The governor heard Pasquale Rosetti’s third plea for clemency on Wednesday, November 8, 1939. His mother, Josephine Rosetti, made her plea in person, saying that her husband was invalid and she had children to raise. Pasquale was needed to earn an income for the family.
A cab driver was robbed on December 12, 1939. Suspected of being the robbers were Sam Librizzi, John Vitrano and Richard Farino. The three men were released by Captain Adolph Kraemer when a positive identification could not be made.
August Chiaverotti was released from Waupun State Prison on December 9, 1939 after doing a stretch for assault, armed robbery and burglary. He would end up serving another three years and five months on parole.
Seraphin Joseph Basile, 20, 1043 North 4th Street, was convicted of larceny, assault and armed robbery on January 25, 1940 and sentenced to 1-5 years in the Wisconsin State Reformatory by Judge George J. Leicht. His partner William Gardipee, 17, 1526 North Astor Street, was given the same sentence. The boys had held up taxi driver Brownie Novak, tied him to a boxcar, took $7 from him and drove off in the cab.
Salvatore DiMaggio and Jerome Stroika were arrested on February 3, 1940 for obtaining goods under a false pretense. They were both released with charge. (Stroika would make the news the following year for walking away from a prison farm after being sentenced for shoplifting.)
The 909 Club of Cudahy, a vice resort owned by Delores Billings, was bombed in February 1940 shortly after Rocco Maglio tried to extort protection money from her. After the bombing, Billings fled town.
Isadore Crupi was released from Waupun on March 6, 1940. He would remain on parole until July.
Dominic Picciurro was paroled from Waupun on March 30, 1940. Michael Farina was also paroled from Waupun on March 30, 1940.
After a complaint from tavern operator Mae Yager (whose pub was at the corner of Highways 100 and 41), various people were taken in for questioning on Saturday, April 6, 1940. She claimed to have received a phone call threatening to bomb her home unless she paid $80 protection money. Detectives had her give the money in an envelope and then nabbed the man as he left the tavern. Two others, Harry DeAngelo and Michael Albano, 23, waiting in a car outside, were later caught after running the car’s license plate. Questioning them lead to the arrests of still five more: former public enemy number one Teddy Azzarella, 34, 1641 North Farwell; Rocco Joe Maglio, 25, 218 North Jefferson; Victoria Ruskin, 25, 912 East Ogden; Peter Balistrieri; Jack Enea, 31; Nick Vicenti; Frank Joseph Maniaci; John D’Amore; Tom Albano; Frank Leo Sansone, 521 East Lyon Street; Gretchen Jeanette Kniebes; Cosimo Samuel DiSalvo; Dominic Paul “Jack” Rizzo, 31, and Ann Jul Brandt, 29, both of 926 North Jackson. Attorney Mario Megna got charges against Maglio dropped, but Ruskin (Azzarella’s girlfriend) was ordered to leave town within 24 hours.
Rizzo and Brandt were also arrested on charges of lewd and lascivious behavior. (It is unclear why.)
Frank LaGalbo was naturalized on May 14, 1940.
Salvatore DiMaggio was arrested on June 13, 1940 for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. With him was Edward Kretlow. Charges were dismissed.
Thomas Machi was arrested July 4, 1940 for disorderly conduct and given a suspended sentence.
Frank Stelloh was paroled from Waupun on July 31, 1940.
On August 25, 1940, Frank Sansone drove Alida Sophia Severson to Racine County, placed her in a house of prostitution, and collected the $4 fees she received. He was arrested for this (transporting and soliciting a prostitute) on November 5 and $250 or six months in the house of correction.
Cono Librizzi, 24, 815 East Person Street, was convicted of three counts of burglary on August 29, 1940. He was sentenced to five years in Waupun state prison by Judge Sherman E. Smalley. His partner, Edward Dzioba, 30, 1910 South 5th Street, was also given five years.
The August Axt Company (740 North Plankinton), a wholesale jeweler, was robbed on October 5, 1940 by four men from Chicago: “Big Earl” Herbert, James M. Hayden, Frank Blacka and former diamond salesman Ernst Porter. Diamonds were stolen with an estimated value of $37,500. The men were caught because witness Emeline Doherty saw Blacka’s wristwatch and could later identify him by it. Herbert and Blacka would end up getting three to thirty year sentences in Waupun State Prison, where Blacka would meet Milwaukee mobster Francis Stelloh.
Mike Enea was paroled on October 14, 1940.
Salvatore DiMaggio was arrested on multiple counts of larceny on November 28, 1940 and sentenced to two years in Waupun State Prison. With him was Andrew Joseph Lococo.
Jack Enea was arrested on December 16, 1940 for embezzlement. He was sentenced to four years in Waupun and was paroled on April 5, 1944.
The Ogden Social Club, Incorporated was registered with the secretary of state on February 19, 1941. The office address was 629 East Ogden. Wanda Gagliano (1519 North Jackson) was elected president. Michael Scalici (522 East Pleasant, brother-in-law of gambler Joseph Piscione) was elected vice president. Rosario Gagliano, Wanda’s husband, was elected secretary and treasurer. Directors were Rosario Gagliano, Martin Gagliano (1513 North Jackson) and John Picciani (518 East Lyon). These people, with Rosario Picciuro (1421 North Van Buren) replacing Picciani, signed the articles of incorporation in front of Mario A. Megna, Jr. as witness.
The club’s charter said that its purpose was to “foster and promote the best interest and welfare of its members socially and economically, and to foster sports amongst its members.” Membership was open to any “adult person of good and moral character”.
John Rizzo was arrested April 18, 1941 in Racine for being the inmate of a gambling house. He was fined $10.
Salvatore Gagliano, Louis Fazio, along with a man named “Duffy”, set up a 15-year old Milwaukee girl (who lived at a foster home in Wauwatosa) with a brothel called Maxine’s (also known as the Colonial Club, owned by Maxine and Chris Constance), two miles west of Sheboygan Falls on County Highway C (across from O’Neill’s restaurant) in May 1941. Gagliano, 27, (also known as “Teddy Capp, the singing bartender”) met the girl on the nights of May 1 and May 2, at Nick du Laveris’ tavern (corner of 4th and Wells) telling her that he had a job for her. After taking her to an east side hotel (where he falsely told her they would be meeting with friends), they went to a barroom and met up with Fazio and Duffy. The three men drove her to Maxine’s. The girl worked there for a while, but rebelled when asked to perform for a group of young Sheboygan businessmen. Maxine drove her back to Nick du Laveris’ tavern where the girl paid Gagliano $100 to be “released”.
Jack Enea was convicted of embezzlement on May 14, 1941 and sentenced to four years in Waupun by Judge Max W. Nohl.
Nick Machi and a 20-year old woman were on trial for disorderly conduct on May 26, 1941. They were represented by Mike Megna. The case was dismissed, and then the same day Megna represented the woman in juvenile court where she was trying to get custody of her illegitimate 18-month old son.
Giuseppe Balistrieri petitioned for naturalization on May 20, 1941 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. His witnesses were Thomas Alioto (1705 Astor Street) and Saverio DiMaggio (1424 North Jefferson Street).
Anthony Sansone was arrested on May 29, 1941 for the sale of counterfeit money.
Isadore Tocco was arrested June 4, 1941 for being the inmate of a gambling house. He was fined $5.
Mario A. Megna, an attorney, had a 20-year old prostitute (the woman from May 26) working at the Blazing Stump in June and July 1941. On July 6, he brought a 15-year old girl from Stevens Point to the Blazing Stump to see the 20-year old. On the ride there, they were joined by Louis Fazio and Nick Gentilli. Fazio allegedly punched her on the chin during the ride.
Giuseppe Balistrieri’s petition for naturalization was accepted, and he swore the oath of allegiance on July 17, 1941.
Fazio would be arrested for pandering and rape in September 1941, and after fleeing to Chicago and being caught, was sentenced to two to ten years in Waupun by Judge Henry Hughes of Oshkosh. Fazio also supplied girls to the Blazing Stump in Darboy (southeast Appleton) and the Tin Roof (a “men’s sporting club”) at the corner of County PP and South Street in Plymouth.
Anthony J. Sansone, 29, met with a 24-year old woman at a hotel on September 4, 1941. In the next room listening in were Detective John Zilavy, Deputy Sheriff George Hanlon and Deputy Sheriff Eugene Netz. After the police heard Sansome strike the woman, they wrestled him to the ground and arrested him for pandering based on the conversation. Sansone remarked to them, “Waupun, here I come.” He also asked the police, “She sang pretty good, didn’t she?” (referring to the woman ratting him out). Zilavy replied, “Yes, she sang pretty.” Sansone was charged with pandering and sentenced to 14 years at Waupun (he would serve fewer than 8).
On October 18, 1941, Nicholas Gentilli, 26, 1323 North Astor, and Nicholas Joseph Machi, 27, 221 North Jefferson, were arrested at their bar, The Gay Spot (619 West Juneau Avenue) for supplying girls to four houses of prostitution: Joy’s Lunch of DePere, Egan’s Riverside Tavern of Sheboygan Falls, Club Royal of Plymouth and the Blazing Stump of Appleton. They were accused of being suppliers between October 6, 1940 and June 6, 1941.
Nick Fucarino’s wife, Rose, gave birth to daughter Rosemarie Fucarino in Milwaukee on October 19, 1941.
Nick Gentilli, through attorney James Sammarco, pleaded guilty on November 5 to aiding and abetting prostitution by putting a 20-year old woman in a house of ill repute. Sammarco said, “The defendant did not profit personally. He was just a ‘good fellow’. What he did was done as a favor. He was a victim of circumstances. While ignorance of the law is no excuse, we are pleading it here since Gentilli knew no better. He is a sick man.” Judge Harvey L. Neelen sentenced Gentilli to a year in the house of correction.
Rosario Gagliano was arrested on December 15, 1941 for being the keeper of a gambling house. He was fined $100.
Attorney Mario “Mike” Megna, 34, was on trial Wednesday, December 17, 1941. He repeatedly referred to his accuser as a “liar” and accused her of committing perjury. Megna’s brother John had to tell Mike to relax. Mike said he had not met the 20-year old woman prior to May 26, when he had represented her and Nick Machi in court on a disorderly conduct charge.
Nicholas Machi, 27, was convicted of pandering on January 6, 1942. He was sentenced to five years in Waupun State Prison by Judge Henry P. Hughes.
Frank Sansone was arrested by US Marshals in Cleveland, Ohio on January 13, 1942 for violating the Mann Act.
Sam DaQuisto was arrested for assault with the intent to rape on March 24, 1942. He was sentenced to 6 months in the county jail stayed and put on one year probation.
Rose Fucarino, wife of Nick Fucarino, had a complaint filed against her in mid-April 1942 because of three bartenders at their Water Street tavern who allegedly served alcohol after hours. One bartender, Anthony Sciano, said he was so busy that he did not have his eyes on the clock.
Floyd and Nello Ventura were arrested in May 1942 for transporting illegal alcohol from Kenosha to Chicago. Both men were connected to a 300-gallon still in Kenosha.
Joseph Guarniere was arrested for larceny and assault and battery on May 22, 1942. He was fined $50 and put on one year’s probation. With him at the time were George Leone, Amadel Valenti and Nicholas Conigliaro.
LCN member Sam Ferrara was cited for serving alcohol after hours at his tavern at 1443 North VanBuren Street on June 29, 1942. Ferrara would soon be the next boss, and this address would be the location for at least one gang slaying. (Ferrara’s bar went by the name of the Peacock from at least 1942-1948 — it is unclear if the tavern had this name before or after these dates.)
Rocco Maglio was arrested on July 11, 1942 for suspicion of assault and armed robbery. He was released without charge.
The police cited Mike Gentilli for serving Arlene Keller on July 18, 1942. Gentilli was cited for “permitting the solicitation of drinks” at the tavern where he bartended (619 West Juneau). On October 19, the common council revoked Gentilli’s license as well as the license of his brother Joseph, the bar’s owner.
Jerome “Momo” DiMaggio was arrested for the rape of Isla May Graham on August 21, 1942. He was released from custody.
Sam Librizzi was arrested for suspicion of burglary and rape on August 25, 1942 but was released by Captain Adolph Kraemer.
Frank Leo Sansone was arrested September 13, 1942 for being the inmate of a gambling house. He was fined $25 and costs.
Frank Stelloh was picked up during an investigation on December 4, 1942. He was released the same day without charge.
On December 30, 1942, Governor Julius Heil commuted Louis Fazio’s prison sentence to two to four years, though Fazio had only served about 9 months. He called the original sentence “excessive”. The governor said, at the earliest, Fazio should not be paroled until he recovered from syphilis. Women’s groups protested that this would put other Milwaukee girls at risk, and the original prosecutor believed that compared to other pandering cases, Fazio’s sentence was already light, especially given the age of the girl.
Frank Sansone was arrested by US Marshals in St. Paul, Minnesota on January 22, 1943 for violating the Mann Act. He was held in the Ramsey County Jail on $5000 bond. (It seems Sansone was sentenced in March to one year and six months in the Federal Prison at Sandstone, Minnesota.)
Jack Enea was paroled from Waupun on May 29, 1943.
Waupun parolee Francis Conrad Stelloh, 30, and William Schlesinger, 29, held up Harry Sweed on June 4, 1943 and took $480 from him as he was about to drop it in the night depository slot at the corner of 12th and Vliet. Sweed left his store at about 9:15pm, and when he reached the bank the two men approached him. The taller one stuck a gun in his ribs and told him to raise his hands. As he gave him the money the shorter man hit him and they ran away. Sweed described the gun as being of a black bluish color. Kenneth Pergande, a cab driver, while his cab was stopped by a traffic signal, he saw the two men rush Sweed against the wall of the bank. He saw the smaller man strike Sweed and leave the scene. They crossed the street ahead of his cab.
Francis C. Stelloh, 30, and William Schlesinger, 29, held up Edmund Stachowiak’s tavern in West Allis on June 17, 1943 in the middle of the day. The pair made off with a bag containing $6873 that was intended to be used for cashing paychecks from employees of Allis-Chalmers. After their arrest, Detective Sergeant Louis Dieden questioned Schlesinger in the presence of Stelloh. Schlesinger admitted that he had committed the offenses with Stelloh’s participation, and that they were armed. To Dieden’s inquiry of Stelloh as to whether the story told by Schlesinger was true Stelloh replied that he had nothing to say. He did not deny the story. August Chiaverotti was picked up for questioning on June 27, as police believed he was Stelloh’s partner. He was released. Stelloh was formally charged with robbery on July 2.
In the early morning hours of July 1, 1943, Joseph Sharpe was punched and robbed of $75. Arrested for this incident were John Dentice, 17, 1434 North Jackson; Thomas Valenti, 19, 1416 North Milwaukee; Barbara McMahon, 24, and Pauline Phillips, 19, both of 1124 North Jackson. The assault was a set-up where Sharpe believed he was escorting two young women home from their job as waitresses.
John Dentice, 17, was convicted of unarmed assault and robbery on July 6, 1943. He was sentenced to the WISB until he turned 21 by Judge Herbert Steffes.
Mussolini fell on July 25, 1943. Nunzio Maniaci said, “I hope Italy now makes peace with this country. The people don’t like Mussolini but they like the king. The house of Savoy, that’s famous. Italians will fight with the Allies.” His son Vincent had received a medical discharge and said, “It’s good news for us; it’s good news for them, too.” Italy surrendered on September 8, 1943, causing a great rejoicing in the Third Ward, as the Italians would no longer have to fight their cousins. Nunzio Maniaci, 501 East Detroit Street, had four sons in the service and said, “We were sorry — for our boys and theirs. We wanted America to win. And now we’re happy that we do not have to fight our own people anymore.”
Vincent Mercurio was arrested at the Schroeder Hotel in Room 2026 on July 25, 1943. Mercurio, who had just been discharged from the military two months earlier, was found in the room with an 18-year old woman wearing only a slip. He was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior. He denied any sexual relationship and the charges were dropped. (Why the police care what two adults do in a hotel room is unclear to me.)
August Maniaci was arrested for receiving stolen property on September 17, 1943 but the charge was dropped.
The “floating” Ogden Social Club was raided for the first time on September 30, 1943 when it was at 1533 North Jackson Street. Among those inside were John Triliegi and John Rizzo, who were each fined $10.
Shortly before midnight on Friday, November 12, 1943, four armed men broke into the OPA office inside the McMynn building in Racine and tied up the two men inside — accountant Fred G. Bosshard, 58, and night watchman William Wren, 72. Bosshard’s wife called just as he was being tied up, and the assailants forced him to tell her that he would be home soon. The gasoline ration coupons taken were good for 1,809,076 gallons of fuel. The men had forced their way in through a library window (the library was in the same building as the OPA office). After the burglars cracked the safe and left, Wren managed to get out of his bonds and call police at 12:03am. Ironically, they had already been there at 11:31pm when an alarm was triggered by the window, but they investigated and found nothing.
There was a “whiskey hijacking” of $2700 in Cudahy on November 29, 1943 which involved Lawrence Quartana, Pasquale Rosetti, August Pintaro and Anthony Scaffidi. One of the men took a truck containing liquor from in front of a tavern at 3900 East Pulaski Avenue while the others drove off in a car. (The truck driver on duty was Herbert Rehmus and the owner of the truck and liquor was Louis Paradise.) Mrs. Cecelia Tamel witnessed the event and was able to write down the license plate of the getaway car for authorities. The truck was found about an hour later near the corner of Clement Avenue and Grange Avenue, withonly four of its 25 cases of whiskey missing. Pintaro later claimed as his alibi that he had been at work during the hijacking but Oliver Eicher, employment manager for the Ladish Drop Forge Company, was able to produce records showing his absence from the plant that day. Quartana claimed he was playing cards in a tavern.
Around December 14, 1943 Jack Enea made a $1500 modification to a building at 201 East Washington Avenue in Madison. This may be a second Jack Enea, as I believe the Milwaukee one was still in prison at this time.
Frank Stelloh was convicted of armed robbery on December 17, 1943 and his parole was revoked December 24. Judge A. W. Kopp sentenced him to twenty-five years in Waupun State Prison for the robbery and parole violation. William Schlesinger turned state’s evidence and was sentenced to five years for his part in the robberies of Harry Sweed and Edmund Stachowiak.
Mike Mineo obtained his bartender’s license on December 21, 1943.
Death of Anthony Scaffidi
Lawrence Quartana, Pasquale Rosetti, Anthony Scaffidi and August Pintaro were at the office of Charles Switler (?) on the evening of Wednesday, January 5, 1944. Switler was paid $250 for the hijacking case. They left at around 10:45pm, at which time Quartana went to Bensinger Bowling Alley to find Herbert Turner-Roe, 34, of 742 North 28th Street, a waiter at the bowling alley, to be a witness for Quartana’s hijacking trial.
In the early morning of Thursday, January 6, 1944, five bandits held up bartenders Eugene Reickman and William Hetrick as they were leaving Bensinger Bowling and Billiards at 838 North 27th, the corner of 27th and Kilbourn. Reickman was hit with a blackjack after one robber took his car keys, wrist watch and $170. They took a mere $23 from Hetrick. Then the police arrived, causing the robbers to flee. Patrolman Charles Jackelin (or Jackilen), on the force for 13 months, shot and killed Anthony Scaffidi, 29, of 1613 North Jackson Street. Scaffidi was hit in the rear shoulder as he ran away, and the bullet came out his neck, two inches below his chin. Scaffidi actually made it another 75 yards before collapsing in the snow. Three men were caught by Motorcycle Patrolman Carl Dettman and Officer Joseph Shaw: Lawrence Quartana, 34, who hid in Robert Barlow’s basement on Kilbourn; John Angelo Mandella, 24, of 2317 North Holton Street; and George Phillip Leone, Jr., 29, of 2930 North Booth Street. Caught soon after was August John Pintaro, 29, Scaffidi’s brother-in-law.
At 2:25am, an anonymous call came in to the police station regarding a shooting, and several officers were dispatched (Sergeant Richard Bucholtz, Detective Rasmussen, Detective George Williams, Detective Harold Breier and Detective Vincent Knor). By the time they arrived, the situation was under control. Another person suspected involved, but not arrested was Herman Patrick Rosetti.
That evening at 9:05pm, found in Scaffidi’s coat by Coroner Schmidt was a stainless steel wristwatch that displayed the time, month and day of the week. The watch was rectangular with a round dial. Also found was $139.52. Eugene Reickman was able to identify the watch as his.
Breier, Knor and Williams were dispatched to the Carleton Hotel on Friday, January 7, at 5:35pm after receiving a call that Pasquale Rosetti was living there in Room 215 with a woman named Hazel Lois Gray, about 25 years of age. The men waited until 9:00pm and never saw either of them, so they left and told the clerk to call them if Gray returned.
On Saturday, January 8, 1944, John Mandella stopped by the home of Mrs. Fern Gray in the evening (around 5:30) and spoke with her daughter, Hazel Gray, and Hazel’s boyfriend Pasquale Rosetti. With Mandella was someone he called his wife and their child. After about a half hour, the five of them left.
At 7:50pm, January 8, a citizen called the police station and said they should arrest August Chiaverotti, as he was the driver in the getaway car during the Reickman holdup. Around 10:15pm, a phone call came in from William Hetrick at the Wisconsin Hotel. Officers were dispatched, and Hetrick told the officers that while he was in the cocktail room, he was being watched by two Italian men. Hetrick then said he walked out to the lobby and saw three more Italian men who looked at him and kept their hands in their pockets. By the time the police arrived, the Italians had left the hotel. Hetrick said that even when he was calling police ,an Italian girl stood near him. He thought that one of the men looked familiar from the bowling alley on the night of the holdup. Two of the men looked like brothers to him.
Hetrick then called Eugene Reickman, who was tending bar at the bowling alley. He said he had something suspicious happen to him, too, so the police went to interview Reickman. He said that around 8:15pm, an Italian man came in and ordered a bottle of beer and kept watching Reickman’s every move. Reickman told an employee to watch the man, and the Italian began to get nervous. He left after finishing his beer, and the employee followed him out to the parking lot where he observed the man get into a dark automobile with a license plate that started with 710.
At 9:00pm on January 9, Detectives Arthur Sheeran and Leo Woelfel visited the home of Pasquale Rosetti at 217 East Brown Street. He was not home, and his parents said they had not seen him for the past three days or knew about about his present whereabouts.
Anthony Scaffidi’s funeral was on January 10, 1944 at the Guardalabene and Amato Funeral Home, with burial in Holy Cross Cemetery. He was survived by his mother, Antonia; wife Margaret; son Joseph; brother Carmello; and sisters Mrs. Angelo Greco, Mrs. Louis Botic, Mrs. August Pintaro and Frances Scaffidi.
Police called in Joseph C. Guarniere and Anthony LaRosa on January 10 as suspects, but they were released without charge the same day.
As part of a routine investigation, Captain Adolph Kraemer had police physician Albert Popp examine the men involved in the holdup where Scaffidi was killed. Pasquale Rosetti had no external injuries on January 11, but had rough breathing, a red throat and several teeth missing or infected. George Leone was found healthy on January 14.
Sheriff Joseph Shinners called Captain of Detectives Adolph W. Kraemer at 11:10am on January 12 to suggest looking into Angelo Marnello (or Marinello). Marnello had been released from the Green Bay Reformatory in 1939, and was a close friend of Lawrence Quartana. Shinners said that Marnello could be found at the Wehr Steel Casting Company or at 1631 South 59th Street.
Carl Haertel was called in to the police station at 10:35pm on January 14 to look at photographs of the holdup suspects and identify who he seen in the bowling alley. He was shown photos of Lawrence Quartana, Pasquale Rosetti, Martin Kleba, Anthony LaRosa, Charles Guarniere, George Leone, August Pintaro and John Mandella. Haertel was only able to positively identify Pintaro and Quartana, though he said Leone had been in the bowling alley on previous evenings. Anna LaBell was able to identify Quartana and Rosetti.
Sergeant Louis Dieden dispatched Detectives A. Harris and W. Armstrong to Robert Barlow’s home (2623 West Kilbourn) at 2:00pm on January 15, in order to find any guns or other evidence that may have been dropped. They searched the basement and raked around the outdoor stairway, but were unable to find anything of interest.
Two officers were dispatched at 1:00am on Tuesday, January 18, to talk with Victor Sklarski, age 27, an employee at the Ladish Drop Forge Company with August Pintaro. Sklarski told the officers that Pintaro had sold a book of gasoline coupons to employee George Durens for $10, and that Pintaro had bragged of going on trips of over 600 miles. Sklarski further said that Pintaro did not report to work on the night that the Racine OPA office was burglarized, and he thought there might be some connection.
While visiting Pasquale Rosetti at the county jail on January 21, the police brought Hazel Lois Gray, age 20, in for questioning about her whereabouts at the time of the holdup. She said that Pasquale had the flu and stayed at her parents’ house (1930 North 11th Street) from the 5th through the 7th. This story matched the version told by Rosetti and was even supported by Mrs. Fern Gray, the mother.
On January 22, the police again visited the Carlton Hotel at 1120 North Milwaukee Street and spoke with manager E. M. Serr. He checked the register and found that Alberta Gray and Hazel Gray, sisters, had checked into Room 215 on December 15 and checked out January 4. He did, however, say that personal belongings were found in the room on January 10 and were gone the morning of January 11 when Detective Louis Dieden arrived. A talk with maid Florence Clermont revealed that during the week of January 2, she did not make the beds in Room 215 because she saw someone sleeping in there during the day.
Hazel Gray’s story of being at her mother’s rather than at Room 215 was shattered when the police checked the outgoing phone calls made from that room on January 5 and 6. She called the following on the 5th: Tower Hotel (716 North 11th Street), Yellow Cab (1232 North Edison), Lake View Lunch (823 East Wisconsin). And on the 6th: Ted Quartana (226 North Milwaukee Street), Swing Club Tavern, twice to HiWay Tap Tavern (1682 North VanBuren), Dominic Zarcone (1680 North Humboldt), John Uhlenberg (1736 North Pulaski Street) and DuLavari’s Bar (340 West Wells Street).
Police re-interviewed Hazel Gray on January 23, and she re-affirmed the story that she was at her mother’s house staying with Rosetti during the holdup. She said she did not give anyone permission to stay in her hotel room in her absence. A talk with Alberta Gray revealed that the calls to Tower Hotel and Yellow Cab were made by her — she was picked up by cab driver Walter Zastrow at 4:17am and brought to the Tower Hotel, leaving Hazel and Pasquale at the Carlton. The call to the Lake View Lunch was made by a woman named Norma, Alberta’s friend, who had stopped by the Carlton to pick up Alberta’s overshoes and bring them to her place of business, the Lake View Lunch. Alberta had left the Carlton because she came home with her boyfriend and was upset to find her sister in bed with Pasquale Rosetti.
The call to DuLavari’s Bar could not be accounted for. The bartender on duty at the time was Anthony LaRosa, Pasquale Rosetti’s cousin. LaRosa said he never received a call and somebody else may have answered it.
Michele Mineo began working at Schlitz Brewery on February 9, 1944. His position was simply called “brewery worker”.
Ralph Adamczyk, 25, a Cudahy meat market proprietor, had set up an office in the parking lot of a Cudahy defense plant. Adamczyk was found on February 26 with 1408 coupons in his possession (redeemable for 7,040 gallons). Arrested with Adamczyk was Paul Nielson, 37.
When Nielson was brought before Commissioner Floyd E. Jenkins, he told Jenkins that he was only a “subreservoir” of the gas coupon ring. “I don’t know who the bosses of the ring are,” he said. Nielsen had started in the business about a year prior, buying the coupons for four cents a gallon and selling them for seven to ten cents. He was a bakery delivery man and could often sell them at filling stations. Adamczyk also confessed and told the authorities he had once purchased 10,000 gallons for $500 and later 9,000 gallons for $5000 when co-conspirators Joseph Leight and Sam Beer told him the price increased. While his captors watched, Adamczyk purchased coupons for 2,000 gallons from Sam Brancato’s filling station, leading to his arrest.
Jack Enea, 34, was arrested by the Secret Service on Monday, February 28, 1944 for the illegal transfer of gas coupons. He was handed over to the US Marshals and held under $2500 bail. Four Chicago men were also arrested: tavern owner Sam Beer, gas station owner Sam Brancato, cigar salesman Joseph Leight, and pool room owner Philip Packard. They were suspected of having gas coupons for as much as 1,000,000 gallons of gasoline.
Former boxer Alphonse Anzalone appeared before Commissioner Floyd Jenkins on Thursday, April 13, 1944. Anzalone was accused of passing 80 counterfeit gas coupons (good for five gallons each) to a service station. He waived his preliminary hearing and was held on $1000 bond.
Warrants were issued on April 16 or 17, 1944 for D. Fisher and Carl Iverson of Racine. They were accused of being involved in a gas ration coupon counterfeit ring, which shorted 32 gas stations of 29,500 gallons of fuel. The principal participant in the ring, John Rizzo, was not found.
Racine native John Charles Rizzo, 33, surrendered at the US Marshals office at 2:00pm Tuesday, April 18, 1944 accompanied by his attorney, Eugene Sullivan. He was wanted for transferring 440 gasoline rationing coupons, representing 2200 gallons of fuel. He was named as the supplier to Alphonse Anzalone. (Interestingly, Rizzo and Anzalone were roughly the same age and both men were formerly from Pennsylvania.) Commissioner Floyd Jenkins set Rizzo’s bond at $1000 and set a hearing for May.
Also on April 18, the Assistant District Attorney sent a letter asking Local Board No. 16 to delay the induction of Eugene R. Reichman into the US Army, as he was scheduled to do on April 21. Reichman was considered the state’s primary witness in a holdup and without him “the prosecution will necessarily fail.” The Board granted this request and delayed Reichman’s induction until May; one might wonder how this delay in being sent to the Army may have changed Reichman’s life.
Lawrence Quartana was convicted of larceny and robbery on May 1, 1944. He was sentenced to twenty-five years by Judge Herbert J. Steffes.
The “floating” Ogden Social Club was raided the second time on May 17, 1944 when it was at 1446 North Jackson Street. John Triliegi was fined $250 for being the house custodian and possession of horse race betting sheets, and the police seized four telephones that they said were used for gambling. Rosario Gagliano was arrested as a patron, but was released without charge. The club’s attorney, Eugene J. Sullivan, successfully argued for the phones to be returned to the club unless proof of their misuse was given.
Counterfeiting charges against John Rizzo were dismissed by the Commissioner on June 5, 1944 for lack of evidence. (Records for Rizzo are kept in Secret Service file #J-9-30215 — note to self to order this later.)
Martin King of Racine and Sebastian Vermiglio of Detroit were in Chicago on June 10, 1944. There they purchased counterfeit gasoline ration stamps from Jack Barg for $15,000. Barg soon discovered these bills were also counterfeit.
Arrested on Tuesday, June 20, 1944 were four Chicago men: ring leader Jack Barg, 40; filling station owner Bennie Zolot; filling station operator Phillip Zolot; and salesman Moe Bromberg. Their arrests came as a result of the confession of Cudahy’s Ralph Adamczyk. “The men now in custody are charged with being the top leaders of a counterfeit gang that has operated throughout the middle west, the south and parts of the west coast. The Secret Service believes that the largest counterfeit gang in the middle west is now smashed,” declared Ellis Hughes, chief of the fuel enforcement division of the Milwaukee district OPA office. (The Zolot brothers are sometimes referred to as the Zoloto brothers.)
On June 26, 1944, Sorcey and King called James Carter into the back room of the tavern, told him that they had some “queer,” that is, counterfeit money, and wanted to know if he knew anyone who would buy it. King produced ten or twelve $20 bills, saying some of them were phony, and Sorcey showed him a couple of “hundred dollar” counterfeit bills.
On July 1, 1944, Sorcey bought Carter’s interest in a tavern licensed to a man named Volpe.
July 11, Vermiglio gave Carter fifteen $20 counterfeit bills and told him to call Sorcey. James Carter and Anthony Cicerello went for a drive on July 12, 1944 spending 100 counterfeit bills in Chicago, Cicero, South Bend and Hammond. They purchased stockings, neckties, baseballs, sandwiches and more to dispose of the money. One of the bills was passed by Cicerello in a restaurant operated by a Mrs. Kirkpatrick in Chicago, Illinois. She became suspicious and contacted the police. On the return trip, Carter was arrested at Chicago and eight of the $20 counterfeit bills were found on his person.
On August 9, 1944 Sorcey told King, “Cokie Joe (Cicerello) is over in Chicago… he is passing those phoney bills like a house afire… He wants you to go with him.”
Thomas Tarantino, owner of a fish market at 1680 North VanBuren, was fined $5 on August 14, 1944 for dumping fish entrails on the lake near the incinerator.
Frank LaGalbo and his girlfriend Alice Polinski were arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct on August 26, 1944 at the Chatterbox Tavern (owned by Alice’s father, Walter Leo Polinski). They were each fined $25. (When Walter died in 1948, Alice and her husband Earl Eastley took over the tavern.)
Joseph Vallone and Pasquale Migliaccio were sued by the Office of Price Administration (OPA) on Friday, September 15, 1944. The OPA claimed that the grocers were selling their sugar and processed foods for “overceiling” prices, and demanded they be fined. The OPA asked to be awarded damages of three times the amount overcharged.
Anthony Cicerello was arrested December 22, 1944 in Chicago for passing a counterfeit $20 bill. He was being held in the county jail in lieu of $5000 bond.
Jack Carter arranged for his counterfeiting friends to meet with a “client” on January 17, 1945 at a hotel in Cudahy. The client was a government agent. Martin King and August “Jack” Sorcey gave $13,400 in counterfeit bills to Dominic “Jack” Rizzo, who was soon captured by the agent. The others were picked up the same day.
Francis Stelloh, 32, escaped from Waupun State Prison by sawing through the bars at 3:00am on January 19, 1945. With him was Frank Blacka, 38, of Chicago, who had committed a $37,000 jewelry heist in Milwaukee. After sawing through the bars, they scaled the 18-foot wall with a makeshift ladder. A car was stolen in Waupun and from there they drove to Milwaukee. Both men were found and arrested at 1:30pm in the bathroom of apartment #100 leased to Christ Krystowiak at 809 North 27th Street. Detectives came in with guns drawn after the door was unlocked by superintendent J. W. Shaw. Also found in the apartment were Leo Laabs and Florence Houlihan, who said they entered the apartment and found the men there. “I asked them what they were doing in my apartment, but they wouldn’t answer,” said Laabs. The stolen car was parked outside. When Captain Adolph Kraemer tried to question Stelloh, the convict replied, “Lay off me, captain. I’ll only have to go through this rigmarole again at the prison, so I won’t say anything now.” Blacka said they knew that some bars had been sawed through in the “pickle room”, but would not say who sawed them.
Counterfeiter Martin King, 43, of Racine was released from jail on $10,000 bail on February 6, 1945. King, formerly known as the “crusading constable” of Mt. Pleasant, paid by certified check. He was scheduled for a hearing on February 13 before U.S. Commissioner Floyd Jenkins, along with his co-conspirators tavernkeeper August “Jack” Sorcey and bartender Dominick Anthony “Jack” Rizzo.
John Alioto tried his hand at being a tavern owner and opened the Express Bar at 801 East Michigan Street in 1945. It closed in 1950. In 1948, he opened Alioto’s Supper Club at the corner of VanBuren and Michigan, which remained until it was bought out by the city and Alioto had to move his restaurant to Wauwatosa.
Counterfeiter Anthony Cicerello was finally caught by Secret Service agent Joseph Sullivan on Thursday, March 22, 1945. Along with his co-conspirators, he was to stand trial for being a part of a ring that passed the bills of “Count” Victor Lustig.
The “floating” Ogden Social Club was raided on April 27, 1945 when it was at Rosario Gagliano’s house. Gagliano was fined $25 for kneeing a policeman and punching him in the nose.
A safe was stolen from Johny’s Round Up on April 30, 1945. Owner John DiTrapani said the safe contained $961. The safe was found in Waldauer Woods at the corner of 106th and Mount Vernon, broken and empty, by youths Richard Dahmke and Donald Miller.
A safe was stolen from John DiTrapani’s tavern on 27th Street on May 1, 1945. The case would go unsolved for a year when the safe was found buried in a backyard. No one was charged, but the police suspected John Mandella and Cono Librizzi as the culprits.
Kenosha hoodlums Dominic Principe, 32, and Fred Covelli, 24, robbed the Racine tavern of Stanley Tomczak (1754 Racine Street) on May 4, 1945. They took $600 and were chased to Somers township in Kenosha County. The pair hid under a work bench in a farmer’s garage but were soon apprehended. Principe was later sentenced to Waupun by Judge Elmer D. Goodland and Covelli was sent to the Green Bay Reformatory.
On May 6, 1945, Judge Kleczka gave out an order allowing police to “peek” in the Ogden Social Club, meaning that they could walk through without a warrant. The judge felt with repeated gambling raids, and with only Joseph Piscione admitting to being an officer (he was president), it was a reasonable action to keep the club away from illegal activities.
Joseph Spero was hired on as a garbage collector for the City of Milwaukee on May 17, 1945.
The federal trial of Milwaukee counterfeiters began Monday, June 4, 1945. The accused were August “Jack” Sorcey (former operator of Melody Lane Tavern, 340 West Wells); Anthony Cicerello, 1759A North Marshall Street; Dominic “Jack” Rizzo, a Milwaukee bartender; and Martin King, a former constable of Racine County. Jack Carter of Chicago, Sorcey’s former business partner, testified against the men that they conspired to pass counterfeit $20 and $100 bills.
The counterfeiters were sentenced on Saturday, June 15, 1945 by Judge F. Ryan Duffy. Rizzo would be sentenced to two years in the federal prison at Sandstone, Minnesota. Sorcey was sentenced to seven years in prison, and King was given three years probation. Anthony Cicerello was scheduled for sentencing on June 30 because his attorney was out of town. Sorcey’s attorney, Eugene Sullivan, said they would appeal Sorcey’s conviction to the Circuit Court of Appeals. Sullivan argued that allowing the jury to meet with the bailiff prejudiced the jury against Sorcey.
The “floating” Ogden Social Club was raided on July 11, 1945 when it was at 1442 North Jackson Street. They found a croupier’s stick, a dice field, several decks of cards, horse race betting sheets, three telephones and a billiard table that could be converted to a dice table. The building was then padlocked by police. Dominic Picciurro was fined $200 for keeping a gambling house. Philip M. Azzolina, Peter Figarino, Robert Puccio and Carmello Valenti were charged as patrons. Rosario Gagliano, Peter F. Balistrieri, John B. Triliegi, Joseph Piscione, James G. Bruno and Thomas Puccio would face contempt of court charges, but they were dismissed. Judge Kleczka threatened to jail him if any evidence came up that they were involved in gambling, saying, “If you defy the law you will be punished. If you think you are greater than the state of Wisconsin, you are mistaken.”
Cono J. “The Weasel” Librizzi, 29, 808 East Brady Street, burglarized the Dutchland Dairy Store of West Milwaukee in August 1945 by climbing in a back window. With him were Salvatore DiMaggio and John “Boss Man” Mandella, who urged him not to enter and stood outside eating ice cream. FBI agents, who were watching them because of another investigation, saw Librizzi in the store and the feds caught the three men after a car chase. Dimaggio was later found not guilty of burglary by the court.
Sam Proite, Isadore Tocco and Thomas Machi were arrested August 29, 1945 for being inmates at a gambling house. Tocco was fined $10 and the others were each fined $5.
Joseph Guarniere was involved in a “plant job” on September 15, 1945.
Clarence W. Hibbert lost $164.90 at a craps game on September 24, 1945 at the Ogden Social Club. He said that John Triliegi was running the game, but when later brought to court, “forgot” the incident in question.
On Friday, October 12, 1945, four safe crackers were arrested: Cono J. “the Weasel” Librizzi, 29; John A. “Boss Man” Mandella, 25; Mike Farina, 30; and Joseph Charles Guarniere, 30. Officers approached them while they were in their automobile and the following items were visible: a revolver, a sledgehammer, a silk stocking mask and two pairs of canvas gloves. The next day in court, District Attorney McCauley said, “The police and I are certain that Librizzi is a member of a gang which has been terrorizing Milwaukee for more than a year, and that the gang is responsible for most of the safe cracking jobs in Milwaukee in that time.” Charges against Guarniere were dismissed.
Isadore Tocco was arrested on October 26, 1945 for being the inmate of a gambling house and was fined $10.
Sam Cefalu was arrested for assault and battery on December 20, 1945 and received a suspended sentence.
The “floating” Ogden Social Club was raided January 12, 1946 while at 1439 North Jackson.
Early in January 1946, former football star Santo Curro, 36 and former Green Bay Reformatory inmate Benny DiSalvo, 29, began threatening the owner of the New Yorker bar, Charles Wolfe. Curro would enter the bar and say, “The higher ups sent me to get some money.” Wolfe told him that he owed nothing. The threats continued until Thursday, January 24, when Wolfe had enough of their nonsense. Curro said, “The higher ups said we gotta come back with some dough this time.” Wolfe ignored them and walked to a nearby restaurant. The pair followed him to the restaurant, but then turned around and went back to the bar, stealing $250 from the register. DiSalvo was arrested January 28 for burglary and threatening to harm, but the charges were dismissed.
The “floating” Ogden Social Club was raided March 1, 1946 while at 1444 North Jackson, with Leonard Mercurio being the keeper of the house.
In the early evening of March 12, 1946, the Farina brothers (Mike and Joe), accompanied by Tony Bruno, drove to the home of John Mandella in Milwaukee and stole three radios and a fur coat and drove to Kenosha, where Mike sold the radios.
Mike Farina was shot multiple times with a .38 and killed about 3:00am, March 13, 1946 by Louis Fazio. With Fazio were John and Jerome Mandella, and Dominic Lampone. Jerome Mandella had been the owner of a tavern at 1411 West Fond du Lac Avenue. The quartet forced a truck containing Mike and Joe Farina, along with former Milwaukee prize fighter Tony Bruno, off the road near where Highways 41 and 43 meet in Kenosha County. The killers were driving Mandella’s Chrysler. Joe was shot in the jaw but survived to identify the assailants. He had the bullet removed from his jaw about two weeks later by Dr. R. P. Gingrass at County General Hospital. Jerome Mandella would later testify that on the night of the shooting, he was visiting his sister, Mrs. Thomas Tarantino, at her tavern, The Highway Tap, at 1682 North VanBuren. John Mandella testified that he was home in bed. And Fazio testified that he was playing cards with Sam Cefalu, Leonard Mercurio and Sidney Schiewitz at Pick’s Music Store, and was later brought home by taxi driver John Latano.
Sam DaQuisto was arrested on March 16, 1946 and sent to Kenosha County for a murder charge (presumably Farina). He was released.
The “floating” Ogden Social Club was raided on March 27 and 28, 1946 at 1439 North Jackson Street. Among others arrested were John Triliegi and Rosario Gagliano. Sam Cefalu was arrested for being an inmate of a gambling house on the 28th, but was released.
Cono Joseph “the Weasel” Librizzi, 808 East Brady, was convicted of burglary of the Dutchland Dairy Store on April 1, 1946. Librizzi admitted being in the store and being spotted by FBI agents who were investigating him for other reasons. He insisted that his friends, Salvatore DiMaggio and John “Boss Man” Mandella, were outside eating ice cream and had urged him not to enter the store. Judge Roland J. Steinle sentenced him to ten years in the state prison at Waupun.
Tony Machi was arrested on April 18, 1946 for being an inmate of a gambling house.
Frank James DeNicola, 24, was arrested on April 25, 1946 for being the keeper of a gambling house. He was fined $300. Santo Charles Curro (1753 North Arlington), 36, and John Rizzo were fined $25 each for being an inmate of a gambling house at 618A East Clybourn the same day (presumably all the same house). Also arrested at the house were: Frank Michael Bruno (822 East Auer Avenue), Giacomo John Maniaci (505 East Detroit Street), Rosario Lanza (1104 North Jackson) and Donovan Joseph Whalen (306 Norris Court in Madison).
Andrew Crivello, 16, was convicted of two counts of burglary on July 24, 1946. He was sentenced to five years in the state reformatory by Judge H. J. Steffes.
Thomas Machi was arrested on August 1, 1946 for being an inmate at a gambling house. He was fined $5.
On Sunday, August 4, 1946, Salvatore Farina, 68, the father of slain hoodlum Mike Farina, shot radio repairman Carmen V. Valentino, 37, in the left chest. Farina saw Valentino in the alley behind his house (at 510 North 29th Street) and thought he was a prowler or baby snatcher. Farina said, “Nobody walks through this alley but Italians!” Valentino was Mexican. At the hospital, Valentino’s condition was described as good. Farina was acquitted in September after his attorney, Ronald Padway, convinced the court that Farina was under mental strain due to his son’s death. In January, Valentino would sue for $20,000.
Isadore Tocco was arrested on November 27, 1946 for being the inmate of a gambling house. He was fined $20.
Nick Gentilli was brought in for questioning on December 3, 1946 and released. What he was questioned about is unknown.
On December 5, 1946, Joseph Ferro brought a 17-year old girl to his fur shop on Mitchell under the pretense of hiring a bookkeeper, and gave her a fur coat. He told her that he could hook her up with modeling jobs where she could get more fur coats. Instead, he brought her to a Chicago brothel. He also asked her if she had any friends who would be interested in a similar line of work, and some names were offered.
Counterfeiter Sebastian “Sam” Vermiglio, after years of being a fugitive, was finally caught in Detroit on Sunday, January 26, 1947. Police, the OPA and Treasury agents had trailed him for 11 hours and watched him supply sugar to various stores — sugar he had purchased with counterfeit sugar stamps.
Thomas Puccio, 46, North Jefferson Street, and Samuel Siegel, 31, 2330 North 35th Street, were arrested by federal agents on Tuesday evening, February 4, 1947 for transferring and selling counterfeit sugar rations. Siegel traded 4000 false coupons to an undercover agent for $1600 at the Towne Hotel, 723 North 3rd Street. The coupons, if valid, would have been enough to purchase 10 tons of sugar. A third man, identified only as “Smitty” and believed to be the source of the coupons, escaped capture. The agents believed the men were a part of a nationwide counterfeiting ring, and they were both connected to Chicago’s Samuel DeStefano, who had recently been arrested at Burlington for selling counterfeit stamps to grocer Lester Fritz. Laboratory technician S. E. Gann said the stamps that Puccio had were identical to the ones DeStefano sold. Puccio was put under $5000 bond and Siegel received $500 bond.
On Friday, February 7, “Smitty” turned out to be Philip Schmidt, who was arrested and placed under $2500 bond. Schmidt told assistant U.S. attorney Howard Hilgendorf that he ran a small furniture factory. He had previously served time in Waterloo, Iowa for passing counterfeit money.
The “floating” Ogden Social Club was raided on March 8, 1947… this time still at 1439 North Jackson Street. Rosario Gagliano, Giovanni L. Taglialovora and Martin Azzolina (older brother of the above-mentioned Philip) were charged. Gagliano, John Triliegi and Frank James DeNicola were each fined $50. Isadore Tocco was fined $25. According to a family member, Martin Azzolina remained a gambler his entire life while Phil may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time — he lived a crime-free life and operated a jewelry store in the Merchant Marine bank.
A warrant was issued on Wednesday, March 19, 1947 for Joseph Ferro, 35, 624 West Wisconsin Avenue, on charges of pandering, sodomy and carnal knowledge. The FBI called Ferro a link in a vice ring transporting girls between Milwaukee and Chicago. He surrendered the next day, was arraigned and was bound over for trial by Judge Harvey L. Neelen. The trial was set for 2:30pm on April 21. Attorney Jack Goldberg was able to get the bond so low by pointing out that Ferro was already under federal bond of $5000 for transporting two Milwaukee girls to Chicago for prostitution, debauchery and immoral purposes.
The state’s case against Ferro involved an 18-year old woman who was also involved in the federal charges, as well as a 17-year old girl who was presently at the state school for girls at Oregon. The 17-year old was also the accuser of Nicholas Gentilli (1207A South 16th Street) and Charles DiMaggio, 26 (520 East Detroit Street) who were charged with carnal knowledge and abuse on Wednesday.
On March 31, 1947, Thomas Puccio, Samuel Siegel and Philip Schmidt were arraigned in federal court. Siegel pleaded guilty and the other two pleaded not guilty.
Detective Louis Dieden retired on April 3, 1947 after investigating crime in the Third Ward since 1912. Chief John Polcyn called him a “leader of men and skillful investigator.” But he had suffered a stroke in Kenosha on March 13 while investigating the murder of Mike Farina and could not muster the strength to go on.
Arthur G. Kotchian, an investigator for the beverage tax commission, was contacted by Prairie du Chien police chief Austin C. Tichenor on Friday, April 11, 1947 concerning whiskey stored in a Mr. Hubbard’s shed that may have been stolen. Kotchian drove to the city jail and examined the whiskey — all identification marks had been cut off. Charles F. Kezele was called in and asked where the whiskey had come from — he said he had purchased it from his brother’s tavern at 27th and National in Milwaukee. (This was John DiTrapani’s tavern, where Fred Kezele was a manager.) Charles told Kotchian that he had intended to go into the tavern business, but that fell through. He then tried to sell the whiskey to Harry C. Speck and Frank Stark at $50 per case, but they turned him down. Kotchian visited Speck and Stark, both liquor retailers, who confirmed the story.
Joseph Ferro, 35, appeared in federal court on April 14, 1947 where he was sentenced to five years for violating the White Slave Traffic Act. He had given a 17-year old girl a fur coat and told her he could set her up with modeling jobs, but then brought her to a Chicago brothel. Later the same day, he appeared in municipal court, where he pleaded not guilty to seven charges of pandering, sodomy and carnal knowledge.
On Friday, April 18, 1947, Ferro appeared before Judge Herbert J. Steffes with his attorney Jack Goldberg. Ferro remained in the county jail, despite his federal conviction, for the duration of his state charges. Goldberg filed an affidavit of prejudice and requested a change of venue, declaring his client could not get a fair trial in Milwaukee County due to all the negative publicity. Steffes accepted the affidavit but said he would not change the venue, as Goldberg had every right to question the fitness of prospective jurors when the time arrived.
On Monday, April 21, 1947, Nicholas Gentilli, 32 (1323 North Astor Street) and Charles M. DiMaggio, 26 (531 East Detroit Street) were arraigned on charges of carnal knowledge and abuse after surrendering with their attorneys. Bail was $500 for Gentilli because of a prior offense and $250 for DiMaggio. Defense attorneys Henry Wagner and Maurice Spracker said the men could not surrender sooner because they had been in New York meeting with DiMaggio’s brother Jerome, who had returned from military service overseas.
On Monday, May 5, 1947, Steve John DeSalvo, 28, of 1531A South 23rd Street, was arrested by agents of the US Department of Agriculture at the Belmont Hotel for passing counterfeit sugar stamps he claimed to have received at a Chicago race track from a man named Lou. DeSalvo sold an agent 1,008 stamps for $500. He was arraigned before Judge Floyd Jenkins on May 6 and could not raise the $5000 bail, and he was ordered to the county jail. DeSalvo pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, June 11 in front of Federal Judge F. Ryan Duffy.
The “floating” Ogden Social Club was raided for the ninth time on Tuesday, June 3, 1947 at 3:15am… this time at 1500 North Jefferson Street. Police used battering rams to simultaneously knock in four doors, all of which were reinforced with steel strips and plywood. Sergeant Harry Kuszewski of the vice squad said the doors were so well guarded that in the first few attempts to knock them in, the ram “just bounced off like a rubber ball.” A dice table, poker table and two telephones were confiscated. Seven men were arrested — six for being inmates of a gambling house and one (Charles Piscuine, 30, of 514 East Lyon) for being the keeper of a gambling house. The six men were: Rosario Gagliano, Martin Azzolina, Dominic Picciurro, Giovanni L. Taglialovora, Carmello Valenti and Frank DeFacende. Gagliano was fined $15.
John Triliegi was picked up in Appleton on June 11, 1947 for peddling an inferior grade of soap, and was ordered out of town by the police chief.
Louis Picciurro, 35, and his fiance Carol Burns, 22, a waitress at the Republican Hotel, got into an argument on the evening of Wednesday, July 2, 1947 and she drove off in a cab. Picciurro pursued her and allegedly tried to force the cab off the road. Burns evaded him, and arrived at Club 3 at 945 North 3rd Street around 10:30pm. Picciurro spoke to a woman named “Pat” who revealed Burns’ location, and he arrived around 11:45pm and began buying her drinks. They both consumed several drinks, and eventually began to argue again. Picciurro shot Burns with a .32 in the hip and shoulder, and then fled to dump the gun into a sewer drain at the northeast corner of Pleasant and Jackson. She died at the emergency hospital at 1:53am on Thursday, July 3, 1947. He soon arrived at the police station at 1:03am to confess, telling the officers, “I am sorry I did it. I must have been crazy.” Earl Steinhart, the tavern’s owner, and Louis Behrend, offered their eyewitness statements to police. When questioned the next day by Detective John Niederkorn, Picciurro no longer recalled having shot Burns and said he had been drunk (his blood alcohol content was .15). He did recall disposing of the gun, which was quickly found by Detective Charles Huepper.
Vito Aiello was arrested July 22, 1947 for selling liquor without a license. The charges were dropped on August 5.
Around August 5, 1947, the Badger State Boxing Club applied for a license from the state athletic commission to hold a cancer fundraising event on August 28. They were opposed by the Milwaukee Boxing Promoters Association, who said that Milwaukee already had four boxing clubs and they did not want to add Badger to that. The charity bout was proposed by Freddie Somers of Kansas City (manager of Jerome Frazier) to Phil Valley. Frank Balistrieri was the president of Badger, with John M. Alexander as vice president and Ben Barwick as secretary-treasurer.
Steve DeSalvo was sentenced to 30 days in the House of Correction for his sugar stamp arrest on August 18, 1947. Upon release, he was put on federal probation for 18 months.
Temporary injunctions were filed on Friday, August 22, 1947 to shut down the East End Grill (626 East Detroit), owned by Vito and Mary Aiello, for serving alcohol without a license and after hours. The building was owned by Vincenza, Joseph and Patricia Albanese. During police raids, patrons were found drinking booze out of coffee cups. Also shut down this day was the Cellar Restaurant (429 North Jackson), owned by Genero Sberna. That building’s owner, Mario Megna, had already started eviction proceedings.
Walter Brocca filed for bankruptcy on October 25, 1947. He had $250 to his name and owed $8729.57 in liabilities.
Thomas Machi was picked up during an investigation on October 28, 1947 and then released.
Bartender Louis Joseph Picciurro was convicted of the first degree murder of his fiance, waitress Carol Burns, on Thursday, December 11, 1947. Judge Herbert J. Steffes sentenced him to life in Waupun State Prison. The jury of seven men and five women did not accept his defense that he was too drunk to have intentionally killed Burns, as his blood alcohol level was .15. Under the law, he would not have been guilty of first degree murder if he did not have intent.
Balistrieri Brothers wrote a letter to the Common Council on Monday, December 22, 1947. They asked a $2 per day increase in pay for garbage collection, which at this time was still being done by horses. They cited the increased costs of feeding the horses, as well as shoeing them and insurance.
Vito Seidita arrived in New York from Santa Flavia on February 16, 1948 aboard the SS Marine Perch. His wife Frances had arrived 17 months prior, and the two went to live in Milwaukee. In March, Seidita started working for Stone Construction.
Garland M. Akers was arrested as the inmate of a gambling house on March 7, 1948. He was fined $25.
Jack Enea was arrested on Wednesday, May 19, 1948 for being the keeper of a gambling house on Packard Avenue in Cudahy. A police officer went to the second floor of a tavern and then signaled other officers to come in and make a raid. Twenty men, seventeen from Milwaukee (including Enea), were arrested (names unknown). Police seized two loudspeakers, two telephones, betting sheets, tickets, a pool table with side boards and a card table.
Many people came out to the Common Council License Committee on Thursday, June 10, 1948 to support the licensing of Sandy Bruno’s Sweet Shop (232 East Center Street), a soda parlor. The police wrote on the application that the shop “is a genuine breeding place for juvenile delinquency, the source of many complaints.” They further said that Bruno was “very uncooperative and at times abusive.” They cited a gang fight at Highway 41 and West Hampton Road — the youths said the fight was plotted at Bruno’s. Sandy Bruno’s attorney, Jack Goldberg, said there was no evidence that Sandy or his establishment encouraged juvenile delinquency, and even if it did, “it was to the police department’s advantage to have such a convenient spot.” Alderman Edward Adamski read Bruno’s police record, which included a peddler’s license violation in 1921 and assault and battery in 1945. The committee denied the license, and Goldberg said he would appeal to the Circuit Court.
Thomas J. Sorce, 41, was arrested for assault and battery on July 8, 1948. The charges were dismissed.
Salvatore DiMaggio and Frank Cicerello were picked up for two counts of larceny on July 30, 1948. The charges were dismissed.
Two fur coats were stolen from a dry cleaning business run by Cosimo “Gus” Marzullo on Monday, August 2, 1948. The store was at 1901 Mead Street in Racine and the coats had a combined value of $300.
Thomas F. Tarantino was convicted of removing and concealing property under a conditional sales contract on August 25, 1948. He was sentenced to thirteen years in Waupun State Prison by Judge Herbert J. Steffes.
John “Blackie” Sullivan was picked up from a Milwaukee tavern by four men on the afternoon of September 16, 1948. They drove him out to Waukesha County (on Highway C near Dousman) where he was badly wounded. A bullet grazed his face and he was hit with a blunt object before being dumped in a ditch.
35 gamblers were called to testify at a John Doe hearing on Tuesday, October 19, 1948. They were: Louis Simon, Henry Mier, Leo “Chink” Meldman, Joseph Piscione, Charles Piscione, Dave Kohler, Henry Hansher, Joe Gagliano, Isadore Tocco, Sidney Brodson, Michael Schalk, James Anastasi, Martin Assolina, William Warner, Abe Katz, Edward Fenzl, Edward Borgiasz, Theodore Ivalis, Garrett Stell, Max Distenfeld, Isadore Rosen, Michael Marasco, Gaston “Tutz” Goldman, Oscar Plotkin, Sam Shaiken, Joseph Latona, Walter Hutchinson, Max Ginzlin, Sam Schatzman, Bert Haskins, Nicholas Calabriese, Dominic “Lem Sputter” Picciure, Nathan Klein, David Collier, Charles Rosen and Hyman “Hymie the Bum” Blaufarb.
Sam Ferrara: 1948-1952
The Milwaukee office of the FBI received an anonymous letter on November 1, 1948 informing them that Sam Ferrara had replaced Joseph Vallone as the head of the local Mafia, because Vallone had not been active enough. The letter said Ferrara was close to John DiTrapani, and that DiTrapani and (redacted, identified as Ferrara’s bodyguard) were the ones who tried to kill Blackie Sullivan. The letter further said Ferrara had sold the Peacock bar for $12,500 and was trying to take control over gambling and prostitution — he showed his power to the underworld by returning an expensive ring to (redacted) after a burglary. Ferrara later extorted $500 from this person and on another occasion $5000. Charles Zarcone and Joseph Gumina were identified as lieutenants for Ferrara.
Under Ferrara’s watch, pressure was put on gamblers to give the Mafia a share of their profits. Most notably, Louis Abraham Simon — who ran a race wire service — was muscled. Simon allegedly talked to his connections in Chicago to protest the treatment, and he was told to cooperate with Ferrara.
The Chicago office of the FBI received an anonymous letter on November 3, 1948, informing them that numerous members of the Milwaukee Mafia had met with numerous members of the Chicago Outfit (including Charles Fischetti) at the Tic Toc Club. (This is possibly the same letter writer as above.)
Tony Machi was arrested on February 29, 1949 for disorderly conduct and fined $55.
The Parker Pen Company of Janesville was burglarized on Sunday March 20, 1949. The bandits tied up watchman James Broderick, 50, and escaped with at least 20,000 pens valued at $75,000. Years later, the Panczko brothers took the credit for this heist and said that the pens were too hot for Chicago and were instead sold to people New York. Their story is laid out in the book “Polish Robbin’ Hoods”. However, after the heist, the FBI did question St. Louis Mafia man John Vitale, who admitted to recently purchasing 23 dozen pens and then reselling them. He refused to say where he had purchased them from.
Mike Albano, a suspect in the September shooting of Blackie was brought in for questioning on May 13, 1949. Albano was 32 years old with a scar down the right side of his face. He claimed to have gotten the scar as a child when he fell on to a wheelbarrow. Albano worked for a heating and plumbing company. Milwaukee police had received an anonymous note implicating the man and picked him up while he was visiting the Soldiers Home. The man had no criminal record, but was believed to have been a bootlegger during Prohibition. Authorities let him go when he denied knowing Blackie Sullivan.
Andrew Crivello was paroled from the state reformatory on June 10, 1949.
John B. Guardalabene died on Tuesday, June 14, 1949 at St. Michael’s Hospital after being ill for three weeks.
Dominic Rizzo was arrested on June 28, 1949 for possession of obscene phonograph records. The charges were dismissed.
On July 1, 1949, Giuseppe Balistrieri turned over his tavern at 2601 West Hopkins Street to one of his sons.
Salvatore DiMaggio was arrested for burglary on July 24, 1949. He was sentenced to three years in state prison. With him was Jerome “Momo” DiMaggio and John F. Phillips.
Cono Librizzi was paroled on September 8, 1949.
Joseph Vallone retired from the rackets in 1949.
John “Blackie” Sullivan was shot at 9:40pm, October 7, 1949 by an unidentified Chicago man with two prior arrests for keeping a gambling house. This was the fourth attempt on Sullivan’s life in the last two years. Sullivan and Miss Edith Johnson, 32, were getting out of a car near Johnson’s apartment at 128A West Vine Street. One shotgun blast was fired from a nearby parked 1941 light green Ford. Another man got out of the car and fired three shots from a revolver. No one was hit.
James Jennaro was arrested October 14, 1949 for resisting an officer. He was placed on probation for one year.
Pasquale Migliaccio opened a restaurant, Como’s, in 1950 at 618 North 27th Street.
Dominic Rizzo was arrested in Milwaukee on February 18, 1950 and transferred to the Waukesha County Sheriff, who wanted him for receiving stolen property.
Milwaukee police received a letter on March 20, 1950 concerning Blackie Sullivan. According to the letter writer, Sullivan had been picked up in September 1948 by John DiTrapani, who then drove to Best Equipment Company and picked up two men, Mike Albano and another man. From there, they drove to Dousman where Albano strangled Sullivan with a wire, the unidentified man shot him, and he was pushed from the car and left for dead until found by an elderly woman and her son. The letter writer further said that Sullivan and Edith Johnson were fired at in October 1949, but he did not know who fired the shots. The rumor around town was that Joe Alioto, owner of the Kilbourne Hotel, had received $30,000 from Chicago gamblers to “have Sullivan taken for a ride.” Allegedly, DiTrapani was given $10,000 of this money.
The letter continued, saying that DiTrapani created an alibi for himself, saying he had been at Lutz’s Bar (743 North Third) and got the following people to vouch for him: Mike DeStefano, Al Susa (owner of the Tic Tac night club), Tony Montello and Joe DeStefano. Allegedly, a Milwaukee police officer was working as a bodyguard for Joe Alioto and made a threatening call to Edith Joghnson, telling her not to identify anyone. The letter was signed, “A Milwaukee Taxpayer”.
Rocky Graziano fought Vinnie Cidone in Milwaukee on May 9, 1950. Frank Balistrieri was the promoter of this fight, which allegedly brought in $50,000. Balistrieri would later credit this event with launching his business career.
On Sunday, May 14, 1950, the State Beverage Tax Division raided the Somers home of Alfred Badoloti, 44, searching for gambling equipment. They found two Racine men: Cosimo Marzullo, 45, 2037 Howe Street, and Leonard Juliano, 46, of 3406 Durand Avenue, who were involved in a craps game. Badoloti, who operated the Surf Tavern and Restaurant, was not home but arrested after the fact. Three slot machines, a dice table, dice, cards and a bottle of liquor were seized. Marzullo was fined $200, Badoloti $100 and Juliano $25.
John Triliegi was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct on June 18, 1950. He was carrying a sawed-off shotgun in his car. The charge was dismissed a month later.
Anthony Tarantino, 18, was sentenced to two years in the Green Bay reformatory by Judge Allen D. Young on Tuesday, June 20, 1950 for carnal knowledge and abuse of a 16-year old Milwaukee girl on May 8 after threatening her with a rifle. Two other young men were involved — Donald Balsewicz, 18, and Lyle Gamrath, 18. Young said that despite Tarantino’s helping the authorities find the crime scene, his actions were “much too serious an offense for probation.”
Detective Louis Dieden, well-known in the Third Ward and a friend of the late Mike Vitucci, passed away on October 3, 1950 at the age of 64. He had investigated many of the cases involving Italians in the 1930s because of his ability to speak Italian.
Joseph Guarniere was arrested for abandonment on October 10, 1950.
Salvatore Farina, Jr., 20, 2320 West Burnham Street, was convicted of carnal knowledge and abuse in Waukesha County on December 1, 1950. Judge Scott Lowry sentenced him to two years’ probation.
Counterfeiter Anthony Joseph Cicerello, 44, met his end in Kansas City on December 26, 1950. He was found shot in the head on the bank of the Missouri river near the Kansas City Power and Light Company. Cicerello was believed to be mixed up with “Rocky” Lupino, but his murder had no known motive or suspects. The snow around Cicerello’s body suggested there had been a struggle.
Rocco Maglio was arrested on February 1, 1951 for receiving stolen property. The charges were dismissed.
Joseph Guarniere was arrested for assault and battery on February 2, 1951.
John DiTrapani stayed at the Hotel Zumbro in Rochester, Minnesota on February 7, 1951. He signed the registration saying he was with his wife. Whether this was true or not is unknown.)
A representative of the Paster Distributing Company (but not Herman Paster) stayed at Room 1525 of the Schroeder Hotel (509 West Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee) on February 15, 1951 and made a few phone calls (now redacted). He checked out the next day. Herman Paster was registered at the Schroeder Hotel on February 21, 1951, stayed in Room 1104, made a phone call to his residence in St. Paul and checked out the next day.
A phone call from Room 931 the Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport, Iowa came in to HILLTOP 4-5425, at 10:58am on March 2, 1951. This phone number was registered to the Paster Distributing Company of 2606 West Fond du Lac Avenue. Also using this number were the Paster Novelty Company and AMI Phonograph Sales and Service Company.
Robert Darrell Bundy, 49, the co-owner of the Taystee Bar-B-Q, was arrested on June 1, 1951 for carrying a concealed weapon. The charge was reduced to disorderly conduct and he was given a suspended sentence. (Bundy had a record of armed robbery and transportation of liquor and had served time in Jackson State Prison in Michigan.)
Phil Valley and Frank Balistrieri appeared before the State Athletic Commission on June 19, 1951. They testified under oath that Balistrieri operated the Badger State Boxing Club and that Valley had no financial interest in it.
John M. “Blackie the Sieve” Sullivan was found badly injured on July 7, 1951 outside his home at 1122 South Layton Boulevard, with a fractured skull and broken right collarbone. Police suspected he was beaten by other hoodlums, but he swore that he had fallen down the stairs. Sullivan was sent to the Mendota State Hospital on July 13, 1951 for an apparent narcotic addiction. He was released August 1 after doctors concluded he was not an addict.
John Alioto, the man who would soon be Ferrara’s replacement, was making a name for himself in the Italian community. He approached the owner of the Ardmore Bar on the corner of 16th and Wisconsin and offered his services if he ever got in “trouble”. By August 1951, the owner came to Alioto’s tavern and said he needed help. Alioto asked, “Where’s the envelope?” “What do you mean, envelope?” “We’ve got to put the fix in and pay off a couple of guys.” The owner walked away, saying it was a minor infraction and he preferred to see his day in court.
On Friday, August 24, 1951, Edith Sullivan, wife of Blackie Sullivan, was charged with larceny for not returning a rental car within the 48 hours of August 18 as agreed upon. The complaint came from Allen Wachtl of the Milwaukee Hertz Drive-Ur-Self. Police suspected she might have traveled to Elkhorn, Wisocnsin to meet her husband, who had been ordered to stay out of Chicago after being picked up by police and was also banned from Milwaukee after being fired upon by three shotgun blasts.
On Tuesday afternoon, September 11, 1951, Balistrieri Brothers employee Henry Kramp, 45, 1324 North Jefferson was under the Holton Street viaduct with his team of horses when a boy threw a stone at him, causing him to fall off the cart and then be run over by the wagon wheels. Kramp suffered chest injuries. The horses ran to the company barn behind 715 East Pleasant Street. Foreman Phillip Constantino, 42, was worried when Kramp had not returned and left to find the injured man under the viaduct. He was driven to the county emergency hospital.
The Mid West Soap Company (third floor of 225 East Detroit) was raided by police on Tuesday, October 2, 1951 and found to have no soap. They did find Isadore Phillip Tocco, 38, of 710 East Mason Street with 50 football pool cards, tally sheets with last week’s scores and $980 in his pockets. Inside, after knocking the door in with a sledgehammer, they found three men throwing “soft sheets” out the window that contained the names of horses and jockeys. The room had tables, chairs and telephones… but again, no soap. Arrested along with Tocco were Thomas James Machi, 33, of 609 East Detroit; Edward Schlein, 47, of 729 North 11th; and Fred Aveni, 31, of 1735 West Galena Street. Tocco was fined $50 and the other three were fined $10 each. Machi had been charged with keeping a gambling device.
John Rizzo was arrested for drunk driving on October 5, 1951 and was fined $75.
Harry DeAngelo was arrested on October 30, 1951 for threatening (redacted person) with physical violence.
Harry DeAngelo (sometimes written D’Angelo) was called to testify on Friday, November 16, 1951. He was alleged to live near Saukville, and as a city garbage collector he was required to live in the city. DeAngelo told the court that he lived at 408 North Jefferson Street with his sister and brother-in-law, Jasper Alioto. DeAngelo did admit, however, that he owned land near Saukville where his wife and kids lived and that he only registered to vote in Milwaukee a week before the hearing. When asked if he was separated from his wife, he said, “No, but we don’t get along so good.”
John M. “Blackie” Sullivan, 46, was arrested in his wife Edith’s hotel room at the LaSalle Hotel on January 22, 1952.
Mike Albano was arrested as an inmate of a gambling house on February 17, 1952. He was released without charge.
Joseph Vallone died of natural causes on March 18, 1952.
The Milwaukee FBI office received an anonymous letter dated March 28, 1952 claiming that the following men were members of the Mafia: Michele Mineo, Joseph Gumina, Vito Aiello, Santo Marino, Sam Ferrara, August Maniaci, Michael Albano, Pasquale Migliaccio, Nick Fucarino, Jack Enea, Charles Zarcone, Frank LaGalbo and John DiTrapani. The letter further named Ferrara as the leader and said that he was close with John DiTrapani. The FBI later agreed with the letter’s assessment. The letter listed known Mafia hangouts as the Tick Tock Club, Zarcone’s butcher shop at 1439 North Jackson, Dicky’s Tavern at 1932 West St. Paul Avenue, and Chico’s Bar on North Farwell.
Vito Seidita applied for a bartenders license on April 18, 1952. As he had no police record, it was granted.
Leo Rugendorf was arrested in Milwaukee on May 8, 1952 and was handed over to the US Marshals; Rugendorf was a suspect in a New Orleans murder. (Rugendorf was an associate of Marshall Caifano and Felix Alderisio, and would loan money to hoodlums for criminal purposes. Caifano also listed Rugendorf, a meat salesman, as his employer.)
Michael Albano was arrested for being an inmate of a gambling house on May 20, 1952. He was fined $10.
The Milwaukee Journal reported on May 21, 1952 that Phil Valley’s Wisconsin State Boxing Club and Frank Balistrieri’s Badger State Boxing Club were considering merging. This was due to Valley’s club getting exclusive rights to hold boxing matches, as the two other clubs (the third being Frank Mulkern’s National Boxing Club) were not believed to keep their end of the deal on contracts with the local auditoriums.
James Jennaro was arrested for statutory rape on June 8, 1952 and was fined $50.
Vito Seidita became a citizen on July 7, 1952. Two days later, he started employment at the Bureau of Street Sanitation, presumably getting in through John Alioto.
Lawrence Quartana was paroled from Waupun on July 28, 1952.
Bartender Victor (Vito) Aiello, 3262 North Cambridge Avenue, applied for a license to run the Town House at 2575 North Downer Avenue in August 1952. Aiello worked at the Club Midnight at 1902 East North Avenue (owned by August Maniaci). At the time, the Town House was owned by Dennis Holland and the two men were in negotiations. Aiello dropped his bid for the license on Thursday, October 30 after the city council delayed its decision, citing concerns over his source of financial income, believing that Aiello had not fully disclosed his sources.
North Dakota Attorney General Elmo T. Christianson, Herman Paster, and Allan Nilva were indicted October 7, 1952, for conspiracy to violate the Johnson Act, which prohibits the interstate transportation of gambling devices. Paster was a big player in the jukebox trade of Minnesota and would soon set his sights on Milwaukee.
John Alioto: 1952-1961
John Alioto was chosen to fill the position held by the ousted Ferrara. The FBI was aware of Alioto’s leadership as early as December 6, 1952, knowing that Sam Ferrara had stepped down. They also believed that Frank LaGalbo was now “head of the younger section” of Mafia crew. During Alioto’s reign as boss the Milwaukee rackets grew at a fierce pace. Most notably was the growing relationship with organized labor.
Ferrara was pushed out of the leadership role after he tried to steal the Ogden Social Club from Frank Balistrieri. Ferrara had ejected Balistrieri from the Family. John Alioto protested to Chicago, and there was a sit down involving Tony Accardo, Rocco Fischetti and Sam Giancana. Alioto was made the new boss of Milwaukee, and Balistrieri was reinstated and promoted to capodecina.
Michele Mineo maintained his high rank during Alioto’s reign. When members were brought to “the chair” for violations, the five men presiding were Mineo, Alioto, Frank Balistrieri, Joseph Gumina and one redacted member (presumably Charles Zarcone, but could be Sam Ferrara).
Under Alioto’s rule, muscling of gamblers and businesses stopped, but internal dissent continued. John DiTrapani spread the word that he would pay for “hits” in order to get the leadership role. This would lead to his eventual death, and cause his ally Frank LaGalbo to lose stature and to transfer his membership. Another ally, Jack Enea, would later be killed, too.
Tony Machi was arrested on January 31, 1953 for assault and battery and fined $50.
The Holiday House, 120 East Clybourn, was burglarized in the early morning hours of January 2, 1953. $15,340 was taken from a safe and filing cabinet, most of it in cash. Sergeant Harold Breier believed there were two burglars who broke in by jumping from a neighboring building’s stairs on to the restaurant’s roof. From there, they forced open an outside door on the second floor. The smashed safe was found at 6:00am by Daniel Brandenburg on North Commerce Street under the North Humboldt Avenue bridge. Walter Brocca was a suspect in this case. The FBI, based on the word of informants, believed that Brocca and Jerome DiMaggio had stolen the safe because August Maniaci owed $25,000 to the Chicago Outfit for a truckload of “hot meat”. Co-owner John Volpe, having heard rumors that John DiTrapani was in the “Black Hand”, asked DiTrapani if he knew who had done the job. DiTrapani said he knew nothing about it, but offered Volpe money if he needed it. The owners did not consult John Alioto because Alioto disliked co-owner Bruno Ramazini for reasons Ramazini did not understand.
Sam Vermiglio and Rose Delima Flynn were arrested on March 13, 1953 at Dapper’s Tavern, 2579 North Pierce, for an unknown investigation. They were released without charge by Captain Kraemer the next day.
On May 15, 1953, Rocky Marciano fought Jersey Joe Walcott in Chicago. With Walcott knocked to the ground, ring announcer Ben Bentley hoisted Marciano’s hand in the air at 2:25 of the first round. Attending the fight were John DiTrapani and John Volpe.
George A. Michaels died at Wood Hospital in Milwaukee on June 2, 1953. The DiTrapani family attended his funeral — Michaels had helped John DiTrapani get into the tavern business.
Someone at Johnny’s Roundup called Felix Alderisio at his home (4736 West Adams Street) in Chicago on July 18, 1953. Alderisio’s phone number (CO 1-8555) was unlisted. Someone used the same phone on July 30 to call Wisconsin General Hospital in Madison to speak with Carlo DiMaggio, who was a patient.
John DiTrapani and his wife Angeline sold their home at 2700 North 45th Street to Michele Mineo on August 24, 1953 for $1. The deed was notarized by Rose Eannelli, and the witnesses were (redacted).
Erwin R. Sell of the C. A. Feisst Company in Watertown sold seven cases of Old Thompson fifths to John DiTrapani on September 4, 1953. Otto Beck of the Beck Liquor Store in Milwaukee sold seven cases of Old Thompson fifths to John DiTrapani on October 5, 1953 for $272.44.
Someone at Johnny’s Super Bar called the Silver Frolics (with a Peoria phone exchange) on September 18, 1953. (The Silver Frolics was a burlesque club in Chicago on Wabash — not sure about the Peoria exchange.)
John DiTrapani called Morris J. “Jeebie” Yopack on September 20, 1953, from his Pine Lake cottage. Yopack was a lieutenant in the Joseph Krasno gambling operation. What was their connection?
Rosario “Joe” Gagliano and Jerry O’Rourke checked into Room 206 of the Colonial House hotel in Las Vegas on October 9, and checked out October 11, 1953. While there, someone made a phone call to John DiTrapani’s residence on October 10. Gagliano’s brother, Salvatore (alias Teddy Capp), was working as a pit boss at the Last Frontier Hotel and lived at 1916 Bracken Street.
Welterweight champion Kid Gavilon fought Johnny “Brittle” Bratton and won on November 13, 1953 at Chicago Stadium. Frank LaGalbo and John DiTrapani presumably attended this fight together (although the boxers had fought twice prior on May 18, 1951 and December 1951, so it could have been a previous fight — but I doubt this).
John Rizzo, 809 Kingston Avenue in Racine, employee of the Tic Toc Club in Milwaukee, was arrested in Kenosha on December 12, 1953 for being an inmate of a gambling house. He was fined $25. Arrested for running the game were Jeff Covelli, 32, and Anthony Conti, 36. The gambling operation was in a “cigar store” that contained empty shelves and only one cigarette machine, but plenty of cards and poker tables. Seven other men were charged with being inmates.
Walter Christensen, 44, of Racine, stopped by Johnny’s Round-Up at 2:00pm on December 23, 1953 to try and sell one of his automatic glass washers to John DiTrapani. The bartender informed him that John was not in but would be that afternoon, so Walter waited around and struck up conversation with an unknown man next to him. The man was about 45, with black hair and olive skin, dressed in a tailored suit and a black hat. He had a low voice, spoke slowly and had two rings, one with a large diamond. When DiTrapani’s name was mentioned, the stranger said, “That no good son-of-a-bitch, that degenerate, he don’t know it, but his time is running out.” At the time, Christensen thought nothing of it, assuming that perhaps DiTrapani was very ill.
John DiTrapani was at Vito’s Pizzeria on January 2, 1954 between 5:00am and 6:00am with Michael Joseph Albano and William Fredrick Werner. A fight started, and the waiter asked them to calm down. The men then left. Also sitting nearby at he time were Louis Sances and Tony Pannelle. Carlton J. Rieckhoff was also present.
Attorney Mark Catlin, now a state assemblyman, agreed to work for Louis Fazio’s clemency in the background if the Fazios would pay $5,000 in advance and promise $5,000 more upon Louis’ release. On January 8, 1954, Louis’ brother, Frank, paid $5,000 in cash to Catlin. No receipt was given. Frank was assured by Catlin that Louis would be freed on the second application if not the first.
At the common council meeting on Thursday, January 14, 1954, Alderman Fred P. Meyers said he received a “serious and sincere complaint” that St. Paul-based Herman Paster was seeking to join forces with a Milwaukee-based man to hold a monopoly over vending machines in Milwaukee. Meyers said, “I am trying to find out more about it” and he promised to discuss it more the following week. The newspaper speculated that the Milwaukee man was Joe Beck of the Mitchell Amusement Company, who owned 385 machines in the city. The Milwaukee Journal also called attention to Paster’s criminal record, having served a federal prison sentence during World War II for selling black market liquor and his later convictions for interstate transport of gambling machines.
The common council held a meeting on Friday, January 22, 1954 to discuss the jukebox trade in Milwaukee. Herman Paster of St. Paul was invited based on rumors that he was looking to become a major player in the area. Paster did not attend, but sent the vice president of Paster Distributing Company, Allan Nilva. Paster is not in the business of operating coin machines, he said. The firm is exclusively a wholesale distributor. Nilva stressed that there was no syndicate behind Paster and that they were not seeking a monopoly. Machines are only operated by Paster when they are repossessed, and even then only until they can find a new owner.
Frank Scaler’s New York Bar had their grand opening on January 24, 1954. Among other attendees was John DiTrapani.
Lloyd Larson wrote about a fight happening January 25, 1954, at the Milwaukee Arena. The 12-round main event for the middleweight championship of Wisconsin was between Milwaukee’s Ted Olla and Al Andrews, who was born and raised in Oliver, a village eight miles south of Superior. Larson called the fight “a throwback to the old and happier pugilistic days when Milwaukee crowds were treated to real contests.” Promoter Frank Balistrieri had promised that $1,000 from the live gate would be donated to the March of Dimes “even if the show loses money and I have to dig into my own pocket… Drives having to do with polio, cancer and other dread diseases are close to my heart,” he said. “I believe in them and I’ll stick with them. That goes even if nobody helps.”
Louis J. Tarantino, 19, was placed on 15 years probation in February 1954 for armed robbery, assault with intent to rob and burglary by Judge Arthur W. Kopp of Lancaster. It was the longest probation term ever given in Milwaukee county up to that point. Lenience was granted because Tarantino had no prior record and he already had three children to raise.
Detectives J. Lavin and H. Zurich were at the Holiday House on February 5, 1954 to question John Volpe about a recent burglary there. They found Volpe sitting at a table talking with John DiTrapani. After about a half hour, they called Volpe over and asked him about possible suspects. He said the FBI had asked him the same thing and he did not have any ideas, but suggested Sam Proite (alias Sam Bruno), who he believed to be a hijacker that worked between Milwaukee and Chicago. The police referred the name of Proite over to FBI Agent Joseph Peggs, who was not able to find anything on him in their records. The police records showed him arrested and convicted twice for burglary, called in for questioning on a case of Old Gold cigarettes stolen from a boxcar, and having been found in both a brothel and gambling house.
Sam Librizzi, 808 East Brady Street, was arrested February 5, 1954 for being at an obscene stag party. His bail was set at $150. The party took place at the Hayloft Tavern at 9355 North Port Washington Road, and resulted in the arrest of 247 people — the largest vice raid in Milwaukee’s history. Exactly what occurred there in unclear, but Librizzi was the only Mafia-connected patron to my knowledge.
Chicago hoodlum Americo DePietto, 39, was involved in an armed robbery in Kenosha on February 8, 1954. Along with two other men (Nick George Montos, 37, and an unknown accomplice), he broke into the palatial home of grease gun inventor Oscar Ulysses Zerk and stole approximately $150,000-$250,000 worth of jade, ivory and silverware. The men entered the home at night, found Zerk in bed proofreading a letter he wrote to UW president E. B. Fred, and tied him to a chair with a pillow case over his head. The men then seemingly knew where the keys to the cabinets were kept, as they were able to unlock them with ease. The goods were received and harbored by Nick Palermo, 45, and his secretary Jean Marie Buonomo, both of Melrose Park, Illinois.
Someone at Johnny’s Super Bar called an unlisted Chicago number (BR 8-7137) on February 19, 1954.
Officer Marvin Godfried talked to Erwin R. Sell, an employee of C. A. Feisst Company in Watertown, on Wednesday, February 24, 1954 at 4:30pm. Sell told Godfried that he was good friends with John DiTrapani, and that the two of them had recently taken a trip to Florida, having returned on February 22.
Thomas J. Sorce, 829 East Manor Circle, left Milwaukee for Hot Springs, Arkansas on February 28, 1954 and stayed there throughout all of March.
Jerome DiMaggio and two masked men robbed apartment manager Paul F. Ruenzel of $9000 of rent receipts on March 1, 1954. They entered his office and pushed him out of his chair and to the floor where he was tied up, and then told the cash and checks from an unlocked safe. DiMaggio would later jump bail and flee to Gallup, New Mexico. When the case eventually went to trial (October 1957), Dominic Frinzi was DiMaggio’s attorney. Frinzi had tried to get the trial moved out of Milwaukee.
The funeral of Thomas Albano, 35, co-owner of Scaler’s New York Bar and brother of Michael Albano, was on March 6 and 7, 1954.
On March 9, 1954 (Election Day), John DiTrapani shut down both of his taverns and invited all his employees to spend the day at his cottage in Pine Lake. About fifteen men showed up, including bartenders Joseph Panich, 37, his brother George Panich, 38, Fred Kezele, 48, and George John Martz, 62. Jerry O’Rourke was also there as a special motivational speaker.
John DiTrapani and Erwin Sell had dinner at Chico’s on March 11, 1954 and John introduced Sell to Russ LaGalbo. Singer Betty C. Landrum, 26, stopped by at 10:30pm and saw John there, and Sol LaGalbo took John home (or at least left with him).
Bruno Ramazini and John DiTrapani had lunch at the Holiday House on Friday, March 12, 1954 between 1:00 and 3:00pm. They talked about oil wells and going on vacation.
On either March 11 or 13, 1954, at 4:00am, John DiTrapani was witnessed fighting with a 40-year old man at the LaTosca Restaurant by Harland Herbert Harvey, 39, his nephew Robert Harvey, 22, and Robert’s wife. While none of their conversation was heard, an argument broke out and one man knocked the other into the Harveys’ table. The knocked-down man was then brought to the kitchen by the proprietor, and a singer named Betty. A guitarist named Nino also saw the fight.
John and Angeline DiTrapani went to the Home Show at the Auditorium on March 14, 1954 where they ran into Meyer “Babe” Shaw, 39, the owner of the United Home Furnishings Company who had a booth there. They had a very brief exchange of hellos but this was all. When John started out in business in 1942, he needed liquor so he brought $3000 worth from Babe (who at the time was a partner in the Globe Wholesale Liquor Company) on credit. The men became good friends, traveled together to Chicago and New York, and their wives would go “cabareting” multiple nights a week. The friendship fell apart in 1948 when Globe had to liquidate and John owed the company $7000. The matter ended up in court, with Abe Skolnick as Babe’s attorney. The money was repaid over the next few months, but the friendship had ended.
Jerome Goggins entered the City Clerk’s office on Tuesday, March 16, 1954 and handed a slip of paper to deputy clerk Emil Allee telling him that the two names on the slip (John DiTrapani and Sol Lewensohn) were the new representatives of the Progressive Tavern Owners of Wisconsin, Inc. Allee passed the slip on to Chief License Clerk Helmund Wolf. At this time, John DiTrapani was the representative for the group.
The Murder of John DiTrapani
John DiTrapani, 40, woke up around 11:00am and left his home at noon on March 17, 1954. He entered the Merchandise Mart (3823 North Richards Street) around 4:00pm with Jerry O’Rourke. While there, John noticed Officer John Papp (off duty) and asked him to look up license plate number C50-387. Papp, a long-time friend of John’s, declined, and told him that he would have to file a request at the department. Papp asked him why he wanted it, and John said that someone was following him. Papp jokingly asked if he was having trouble with one of his girlfriends and John replied, “You know how much trouble girls are.”
John called his wife Angeline, 39, around 5:00pm, and she told him that she and their daughter Catherine, 22, were going to have dinner at Chico’s B-B-Q (1548 North Farwell), owned by Frank LaGalbo. John said he would meet them there. The women arrived at 6:50pm and John was already there, seated at a table with Frank and Russ LaGalbo. (Salvatore Russo, 30, saw them having a serious conversation — without anger or raised voices — at 6:30pm, but did not hear what they said.) John told his family he was not hungry, but they could order and he would pay the bill. John left at 7:30pm. After dinner, the DiTrapani women returned to their residence at the Embassy Apartments (1914 North Prospect, Apt. 51) and John was already home watching boxing on television with his other daughter, Rosalind, 15. Angeline left at 8:10pm to visit the Vento family at 1930 North Prospect. John made a phone call to an unidentified person at 10:00pm and left the apartment around 10:10pm. DiTrapani was next seen by his childhood friend James Peterson, 32, between 11:15 and 11:30pm at the Holiday House sitting alone (and they did not talk). Peterson believed that John left around 11:45pm. Unknown to any of them, at 10:35 Sergeant Louis Strzyzewski of the vice squad was in the tavern asking about one Loretta Nagowski, a Holiday House waitress allegedly working as a prostitute out of room 535 at the Antlers Hotel. Her pimp was allegedly Nick Kaprelian of Chicago.
That evening, or early the next morning, John was murdered, his bullet-riddled body was found behind the wheel of his light blue 1952 Cadillac sedan at 425 North Van Buren Street. LaGalbo would later tell an informant that DiTrapani was killed because he tipped off police that the Chicago LCN was behind a gambling deal that took a large sum of money from oil baron Robert Roman. Whether LaGalbo committed the murder, ordered it, or just knew about it, he would soon be excommunicated from the Milwaukee family.
Around the time of the murder, Jack Enea was witnessed at 3:15am double-parked at 20th and Wisconsin and talking to people in a 1951 light gray Chrysler sedan with Minnesota license plates. After the Minnesota car drove off, the police asked Enea what he was doing. He said those people were his wife’s friends from St. Paul and he was giving them directions to Highway 16. (Questioning later revealed them to be Joseph and Cangie Vitale, owners of the Venetian Gardens in St. Paul. They had mutual friends in Dr. Vito Guardalabene, and Enea stood up in the Vitale wedding. They had spent the evening of March 17 at the Melody Bar.)
DiTrapani’s body was found around 3:42am by Squad 10 (John Hammes and Leo Gorlewski), who immediately called the dispatcher to report a shooting, request an ambulance and detectives, and to identify the owner of license plate K59-911. Squad 101 (Kenneth Marple and Walter Cleary) and Squad 128 (Bernard Ugan and Sergeant Kremsreiter) were dispatched, as well as Patrolmen Walter Fuhrman and Russell Busenfant of the Bureau of Identification, who took photos of the car and took fingerprints. (The 22 photos taken may be lost — they are no longer in the police file.) The body was identified at the scene by Santo Curro.
Examination of the car revealed a loaded .357 Magnum Smith and Wesson blue steel revolver (serial #82906) found on DiTrapani’s lap and dull blue .45 automatic pistol (serial #939358) on the seat beside him. A full .45 clip was in the glove compartment. Six bullet holes were in the driver’s side window that apparently came from the passenger’s seat of the car (not externally). Six spent cartridges were found on the floor, and a seventh outside of the passenger’s door. DiTrapani was obviously dead and had been so for several hours, but was sent to the County Emergency Hospital at 4:36am according to procedure. At this time, four .45 bullet holes in under the right ear were discovered. On his person was found his drivers license, $82.11, and a .38 Colt Detective Special blue steel revolver with a 2-inch (snub-nose) barrel (serial #528228). The gun had six loaded cartridges and was found in DiTrapani’s right trouser pocket. The car was towed to the Safety Building for further investigation.
Lieutenant Wolf called Lieutenant Leo Woelfel at 4:25am and told him of a possible angle to investigate. Wolf said that DiTrapani was known to hang out at the Spicuzza Banana Company (300 North Jefferson or VanBuren) where he would play poker in the basement with several Italians. The business was run by Salvatore Spicuzza, 46, who had taken over the reins from his father, Frank, who passed away in 1937. A follow-up questioning of foreman Joe Agnello confirmed that poker games used to be held in the basement, but he denied ever knowing John DiTrapani.
One bullet actually traveled across the street, through the west window of 424 North VanBuren (home of Ben Linda) and lodged above his bedroom door (86 inches off the floor). The upward trajectory would be very hard to duplicate. This bullet was discovered at 6:45am — and, oddly enough, the residents never heard anything.
Although identified at the scene by Santo Curro, official identification took place at 6:53am at the morgue by daughter Catherine DiTrapani. Her mother also saw the body but did not say anything. Sol Balistrieri, brother-in-law of the deceased, arrived at 7:21am and confirmed the identification.
On March 18, officers Robert Cash and Richard Niumann spoke with Emil Allee and Helmund Wolf. The two men could not give a description of the man who dropped off the slip of paper two days prior, and the slip could not be found. Police found it suspicious that DiTrapani would be allegedly replaced as the head of his own organization the day before his murder. Former organization head Lawrence Wollersheim also did not know the names of the alleged new representatives. Wollersheim suggested contacting the group’s attorney, A. L. Skolnick.
John Michael “Blackie” Sullivan, 49, 729 North 11th Street, Room 820 was brought in for questioning on March 18, 1954 at approximately 11:35am. Asking questions were Captain Rudolph Glaser, Lieutenant John Zilavy, Sergeant George Pelzman and Detective Tobias Golembiewski. Sullivan said he was working as a boiler maker for Combustion Engineers in Oak Creek, and lived with his wife and two children — one had its first birthday just the day before. Sullivan said he had not seen John DiTrapani since 1949 when they ran into each other at the Home Savings Bank and said hello. They had also both been called in to Captain Kraemer’s office in 1949 when someone had put a bomb in the Kilbourn Hotel. Captain Glaser then read a statement to Sullivan that he had made to the District Attorney in Waukesha County on November 21, 1949 at 7:45pm: “I saw him in the bank at Third and Garfield and I waited in the door and when he turned and saw me, he turned white. I said, ‘Here, Grease Ball, how much money did you get to take me and dump me?’ He got $20,000 and Alioto got $20,000. I wanted to know who paid the dough.” Besides DA David L. Dancey, the statement was witnessed by Sheriff Leslie P. Rockteacher, Sergeant Charles Huepper and Detectives Dunham and Reitz. Sullivan now denied ever making such a statement, and said that it was incorrect because Homer Williams had been the DA in 1949. He further denied he knew who had taken him for a ride in Waukesha County. Glaser then read another section of Sullivan’s statement: “(I was picked up) at 128 West Vine Street. We drove to the place on Kinnickinnic Avenue where they give you service in the car. We went and had a sandwich there. Then Johnny drove down to the Best Equipment Company. Next thing Johnny picked up two workers. Fellows in overalls and they had to work on a tavern in Delafield while he drove to Racine. We drove out Bluemound and then we came to Delafield and turned off on a gravel road and a wire went around my neck. My head was pulled down and after giving me a terrific beating I was shot in the head. Before I got out I asked Johnny to help me, and when I looked, he had my left arm and he said, ‘Give him another one quick.’ They fired once more. I was dragged approximately 50 feet. A car followed and it was a Chrysler — gray. I walked some. Johnny drove off with the other fellows in the car, and I walked.” Sullivan now denied making this statement, too. He did admit that at one time, in 1948, he had planned to buy the Show Boat with DiTrapani acting as the front man. After the interview, Sullivan refused to sign the new transcript.
Acting detectives Robert Burzynski and Floyd Engebretson went around the neighborhood on March 18 and interviewed the following individuals: Frank J. Bellante, 32, and his mother Mary, 58, 434 North VanBuren; Joseph D’Amato, 64, and Anna D’Amato, 24, 434A North VanBuren; Thomas Mercurio, 61, 436 North Van Buren; Jack Coronna, 43, and his wife Rose, 40, 438 North VanBuren; Marcello LaRosa, 29, and his wife Mabel, 30, 440 North VanBuren; Mavis Muccio, 30, 442 North VanBuren; Josephine Grisonte, 44, Palma Doxtator, 21, and Vernon Doxtator, 31, 444 North VanBuren. None of these people had anything of interest to report. Bellante had spent the evening at his girlfriend Elda Ruh’s house after they both got off work at Schlitz Brewing Company. They watched the midnight movie, and Bellante returned home around 1:20am and saw nothing of interest.
Officers Rudolph Cheney and Walter Heller received information at 1:00pm on March 18 from a man who wished to remain anonymous. The man said he saw John DiTrapani alone at the Holiday House, 620 East Clybourn, at 11:15pm the night before. According to the man, tending bar at the time were: Ray “Buzz” Krasno, Jackson Hotel Room 614; Joe Locicero, 1671 North Franklin; and Ronnie Gallagher.
Sgt. Pelzman and Detective Dittman interviewed Jack Rizzo, 42, 1000 Newman Road in Racine, on March 18 at 2:00pm. Rizzo was at his business, Second and North Auto Body (2235 North 2nd). He said DiTrapani had stopped in about three weeks prior to pay a $3.50 bill for a damaged tail light. Rizzo did not have change for John’s $10 bill, so he told him to forget about it. Rizzo had heard nothing from DiTrapani since. The officers noted in their report that Rizzo was on federal probation until January 1955.
At 3:10pm, detectives interviewed DiTrapani’s brother-in-law Sam Valona, 42, at DiTrapani’s apartment. Valona, who worked as a part-time bartender for DiTrapani, said he did not know who would have killed him, and further said DiTrapani was very private about his business. When not tending bar, Sam was a welder for Heil Company.
Officer Roy Riekkoff also received word “from a party who refused to tell me his name for obvious reasons” that he saw five Italians in the Holiday House on the evening of March 17, who he believed were from Chicago. The men were well-dressed, had diamond rings and spent about $200 on drinks.
Cheney and Heller went to the residence of Thomas E. Beaudoin, 2702 North 45th Street, and Beaudoin told them that DiTrapani used to live at the lower flat at that address and they had remained good friends. He also suggested the officers talk to Mrs. Terry Gigstead, a waitress for DiTrapani, who could tell them more about his business associates. One Ed Broshat, 841 North 24th Street, had also called the police regarding Terry Gigstead to report that he had witnessed her and DiTrapani holding hands under a table on March 14.
Cheney and Heller further tracked down Frank Kretlow, 22, 414 North VanBuren, who said that he was driven home at 1:30am by Dave Grisante but did not see DiTrapani’s Cadillac parked at 425 VanBuren. Grisante, 26, 444 North VanBuren, confirmed that he took Kretlow home at 1:30am, and further said he took home Eddie Roepke, as well as three girls he knew only as Vi, Louise and Fifi. Grisante said they had been drinking and paid no attention to whose cars were parked on the street.
Officer Jack Schmitt questioned James Brady, 30, 7918 West North Avenue, who had been at the Holiday House on the previous night. He said he was at the tavern from 11:00pm until 1:30am with Dan O’Brien and Frank McKinnen. Brady’s car, an Oldsmobile sedan, was parked near where the “X” in the newspaper said a Cadillac Sedan was parked, but Brady never noticed any such car.
Schmitt questioned other people whose cars were found in the parking lot at 515 North VanBuren Street: Joseph Zarcone (and wife Prudence), 51, 633 East Clybourn, owner of a 1947 Nash sedan, who saw and heard nothing strange; David Grisante, 444 North VanBuren Street, owner of a 1946 Lincoln sedan; Frank Bellante, 434 North VanBuren, owner of a 1950 Studebaker; Charles Lanza Jr., 708 East Clybourn, drives a 1953 Chevrolet BelAir; and Harry Carpenter, 628 East Detroit, owner of a 1950 Ford.
Squad 123 (Leroy Surges and Richard Polsen) picked up John Volpe, 34, from the Holiday House at 8:00pm on March 18. Volpe said he was surprised about DiTrapani’s murder and said they had been very good friends. Volpe said he had worked the previous day from 12:15 pm until 2:30pm, and could definitely say that DiTrapani had never been in the Holiday House during those hours. Volpe said he had been told by another person, jeweler Jimmy Peterson, that DiTrapani had been in there the previous evening, but Peterson did not speak to DiTrapani and Volpe found it to be quite unlikely. Bruno Ramazini, the co-owner with Volpe, had been in the bar since 6:00pm and (according to Volpe) did not see DiTrapani either.
Volpe was able to identify four men who had been in the Holiday House on March 17 who were from Chicago. They were: Funeral director Pete Granata, who was also vice president of Altex, a siding business on the north side of Milwaukee near Fazio’s (possibly Peter Charles Granata, a former US Representative); Senator James J. Aducci (or Adduci), 58, a state senator from Chicago; Ned Bakes, whom Volpe did not know well and believed used an alias; and Dom Volpe (no relation), the business manager of Premium Beer Sales of Chicago. John Volpe provided the officers with Dom Volpe’s business card. (Worth noting: Chicago mobster Tony Accardo worked as a “phantom” salesman for the Premium Beer Sales Company between 1956-58. Accardo pulled down a hefty salary of $179.000, even though he was rarely seen around the offices. Mobster Jack Cerone was a salesman from 1953-1956.)
Volpe said he had pitched in $3500 with DiTrapani on an oil deal that went bust, and he suspected it was possible that DiTrapani just pocketed the money, as he knew DiTrapani was a “lieutenant” in the Mafia. Volpe said that DiTrapani had admitted this to Volpe, and further identified other members: Frank LaGalbo, August Maniaci, John Alioto and Sam Ferrara. Volpe said that he was positive that Sam Ferrara knew who killed DiTrapani, but he (Ferrara) would probably never say anything. Volpe said that DiTrapani had been dating Terry Gigstead for five or six years, and he recalled that DiTrapani was once “mixed up in a deal” with Blackie Sullivan.
Detectives Heller and Cheney interviewed Ray “Buzz” Krasno, 27, who basically confirmed what Volpe had said. He recalled the four well-dressed Italians who were in the Holiday House at 9:00pm, and recalled Ramazini introducing them to Volpe. He further recalls the men being introduced to Emil Wanatka, 63, the owner of the Little Bohemia Lodge (where John Dillinger had his infamous shoot-out with the FBI). He had also been a suspect in the 1922 murder of Charles Pacini in Kenosha. Wanatka was there with Mr. and Mrs. Lester Engel and their daughter, along with a Mrs. Daniels. Although this sounds like an impressive collection of men, one person was missing: Krasno could not recall John DiTrapani being in the tavern at any time.
When Officers Cleary and Marple questioned Joseph Locicero the next day, he also denied ever seeing John DiTrapani. Bruno Ramazini was questioned to further identify the four Italians. He said they were Illinois State Senator James Adduci, liquor distributor Mr. Volpe, and a man named Mr. Rego, an undertaker. The fourth man was one of Rego’s business associates. This last name does not match the name John Volpe gave, and the reason for the discrepancy is unclear.
Officers George Neff and August Knueppel interviewed Albert Bayer, 59, 1519 North Cass, at 9:45pm March 18 concerning Earl Price, who supposedly lived at 1511 North Cass. Price’s car, a 1951 Pontiac, was found parked at 630 East Detroit and he was wanted for questioning. Bayer was unable to help. The officers also looked for the following people but were unable to find them: Carlo DiMaggio, 1536 North Franklin, owner of 1949 Cadillac; Dominic SanFilippo, 706 East Detroit, owner of a 1948 Nash; Herbert A. Procknow, 5827 North 40th, owner of a 1952 Plymouth; and James Greeley, 1246 North 27th, owner of a 1952 Plymouth Convertible. Why they were wanted is unclear, but seems to be related to where their cars were parked.
Neff and Knueppel questioned Albert SanFilippo, 65, 407 North VanBuren Street, whose son Mario, 20, parked the 1946 Plymouth sedan at 736 East Detroit Street on the evening of March 17. Albert did not hear any unusual noises that night. Also questioned was Peter Spingola, 32, of 710 East Clybourn, who owned a 1950 Oldsmobile parked at 715 Clybourn since 11:00 March 17. Spingola heard nothing unusual either.
Cash and Niemann interviewed Fred Colburn, 44, 2611 South Austin, at 10:30pm on March 18. Colburn told the officers that he had left Northern Tool Company (915 North Water) to get a cup of coffee at about 3:45am the night before, when he saw a black 1953 Buick Roadmaster drive by with two occupants. The passenger raised his arm to conceal his identity, but Colburn recognized him as an associate of DiTrapani’s (though he did not know his name). Colburn said he knew DiTrapani well, as it was his uncle, George A. Michaels (deceased) who put DiTrapani in business at Johnny’s Round-Up. Colburn said he would come to the police department on Saturday to view photos of suspects, as he could not go right away with broken glasses. (When Colburn did go, he could not identify the subject from the photos shown.) The passenger was described by Colburn: Italian, 35 to 37 years old, 5’7″, 145 pounds, black wavy hair, a slight scar near his right ear and a flashy dresser. Colburn further advised that he was told by a relative of his, Gertrude Groman, that DiTrapani stopped by Dan’s Steak House near Beaver Dam once a week with his girlfriend. Allegedly people came up from Chicago and did “quite a bit of gambling” with DiTrapani.
At 12:30am March 19, Neff and Knueppel spoke with William Wickert, 62, 3370 North 26th Street, concerning his son James A. Wickert, who drove a 1953 Chevrolet Belvidere. William told the officers that James usually parked his car in the vicinity of the post office, as he is a postal employee who works midnight until 8:30 every day.
Officers Cleary and Marple looked through DiTrapani’s business papers on March 19 and found a few things they felt might be important: two slips of paper, both with license plate C50-387 on them (which seemingly traced to a Stanley Weyher of Port Washington, who had no idea who DiTrapani was); an insurance identification card under the name of James S. Valona; a slip of paper with the phone number WO 2-0736 and the words “Don’t Distill” (which traced to liquor salesman Frank Joseph McCarthy of Minneapolis, who had only met DiTrapani once and did not talk about distillation); and a business card for James D. Rizzo of the James Howe Agency.
Around noon on March 19, Amalia Stetter called the Sheriff’s Office to report that she saw someone who looked like a gangster at Lovers Lane Food Lounge (Highway 100 at West Capitol) talking with the owner, Peter Panagis, Jr.. The two men were discussing the murder of John DiTrapani, and said that a former employee, Marian Lilley Gigstead, was dating DiTrapani. The officer, Russell A. Janke, arrived and identified the “gangster” as James G. Alevizos, 33, a salesman of the Capitol Liquor Company. Panagis told Janke that Gigstead had told him that DiTrapani was the father of her illegitimate child. Officer Janke spoke with Deputy Sheriff Kenneth Rode at 2:00pm and was told that Gigstead was a good friend of the Kopacka brothers. (The four brothers were Joseph, Stephen, Emil and Louis, noted burglars who spent time in Waupun prison during the 1950s and 1960s.) Alevizos, by the way, was completely ignorant of the DiTrapani murder.
Officer Eugene Kleczny reported to Captain Adolph Ebert on March 19 that he had frequently seen John DiTrapani and Marian “Terry” Gigstead drive out of town together west on Center or Burleigh Streets, turn north, and then continue west on Capitol after midnight and return before 5:00am. Kleczny described Gigstead as “about 25 years old and very attractive”, and she lived at 2845 North 81st Street. He further said she drove a 1952 or 1953 Chevrolet with a chartreuse bottom and cream top.
Sam Ferrara, 56, 1600 North Humboldt, was questioned by Captain Rudolph Glaser at the Safety Building at 3:45pm on March 19, 1954. Also present were Sgt George Pelzman and Lt John Zilavy. Ferrara said he owned Central Liquor on Jackson; he used to own the Peacock Bar on VanBuren, but sold it to Lester Martin when his health went downhill. Ferrara said his wife Laura was related to DiTrapani and that he had been DiTrapani’s godfather. Ferrara was evasive when asked if John DiTrapani was a member of the “black hand”.
Sergeant George Williams received an anonymous phone call at 4:40pm on March 19 from an anonymous woman who refused to identify herself. She claimed to have overheard the planning of John DiTrapani’s murder two weeks ago at the Holiday House, and also heard John Volpe and Bruno Ramazini mentioned as the next victims.
Patrolman John Marino of the Vice Squad was dispatched by Lieutenant John Hurley to the Guardalabene Funeral Parlor on Holton Street on March 19 at 7:30pm. He stayed until 9:15pm, talked to a few people, but
was to able to find out anything of importance.
Lieutenant Hurley received an anonymous phone call at 10:30pm on March 19 from a woman who said, “Do you know why the murder was committed? It was committed on account of hijacked liquor… check up on hijacked liquor and you will find why he was killed, because he promised he would take some of this hijacked liquor and reneged.” She further said there would be another murder soon. At 10:40pm the woman called back and said that DiTrapani had not been killed in his car, but rather was placed there after the fact. Given the bullet holes in the car window and Ben Linda’s home, this was extremely unlikely.
(When?) Attorney for DiTrapani’s estate, Fred R. Wright, suggested that Frank Balistrieri take over DiTrapani’s bar — Johnny’s Round Up at 2665 North 27th Street (Balistrieri was his nephew and worked as a bartender — police records show him to be Frank John Balistrieri, age 22, living at 2971 North 54th Street. He was NOT Frank Peter Balistrieri.). The committee rejected this because of Balistrieri’s youth. (Chico’s would later be owned by Frank Trovato in 1975, and later still become a Chinese restaurant and then an Indian restaurant.)
The police department received a letter on March 20 from a “Max N” who wished to remain anonymous. The letter writer said that Eileen Lococo and Lola Spicuzza, patrons of Dasek’s Tavern at 1100 West Walnut, knew something about the murder. The writer said he overheard them saying, “Why should we sing? The police are paid to find out the answers.” Police talked to tavern owner Kathy Dasek, 48, who said that 90% of her patrons were black and the other 10% she knows, and those names were not familiar to her. She suggested talking to Max Gosetti, 52, an employee at Schlitz. Gosetti denied knowing the women or writing the letter, though police noted the handwriting was similar.
Lt. Joseph Schalla fielded many phone call on March 20, 1954. One anonymous person said that Paul LaBriola and James Weinberg were found frozen dead in a trunk in Chicago. The caller believed that John DiTrapani was connected somehow, as he was in Chicago at the time of their murders and was shot at twice. Another anonymous call said that the police “should not put too much confidence” in the idea that Johnny ended his night at the Holiday House, because the real last place he was at was the LaTosca across the street. The caller said two weeks ago, he had seen DiTrapani, both Jerome DiMaggios, and Nick Gentilli in conversation there. Also, that Jerome, Carl’s son, had recently been employed at McCoy’s in South Milwaukee and shortly after he left the safe was stolen. A third caller mentioned Terry Lilley and again said that Johnny was shot at the same time two men were killed in Chicago (but did not know these men’s names). A fourth caller said to contact Sam Ferrara, who was Johnny’s uncle and godfather as well as “king of the Mafia”. Also worth checking out were Frank LaGalbo, August Maniaci and a man named Pugdy from Bayshore. The caller said Johnny was shot at twice in Chicago because of stolen whiskey.
August Maniaci, 2121 North Newhall, was questioned by Lt. Joseph Schalla on March 20, 1954 at 1:45pm. He said he had been employed by the Club Midnight for the past twelve years. Maniaci said he knew DiTrapani all his life, having grown up across the street — although he said his younger brothers knew him better. Maniaci knew DiTrapani was in an oil deal with Jerry O’Rourke, but knew little about it. Maniaci said that Johnny had ate lunch at his restaurant the day before he was killed, and was willing to cooperate with the department, but when Schalla mentioned the Mafia, Maniaci said, “I don’t know anything.”
Mike Albano, 42, 4144 North 17th Street, was interviewed by Schalla, Pelzman and Sorgi on March 20. Albano denied ever being in Vito’s or even knowing where it was. Albano said he had known DiTrapani for about seven years, but never had any business dealings with him and had not seen him since Thomas Albano’s funeral.
Samuel DiMaggio, 37, 1536 North Franklin, was questioned by Joseph Schalla, George Pelzman and Herman Sorgi on March 20, 1954. DiMaggio recalled DiTrapani coming in to the LaTosca a few weeks prior and talking with his father and Bruno Ramazini, but did not know what the conversation was about. He just knew it was short, as DiTrapani only drank one cup of coffee. DiMaggio claimed not to have seen DiTrapani the night of the shooting.
Sergeant Earl Levin met with an informant on March 20 at 7:00pm at the corner of 6th and Juneau. The informant said he overheard two Italian businessmen from Commission Row talking in low voices at Mike Scarpace’s tavern (533 East Buffalo). They mentioned the words “hijacked liquor” and also “Fazio must have lost his head.”
Jerome DiMaggio, 38, 531 East Detroit, was interviewed by Joseph Scalla, George Pelzman and Herman Sorgi on March 21, 1954. DiMaggio was a bartender at Scaler’s New York Bar, but recalled seeing DiTrapani in his uncle’s restaurant, the LaTosca, about six weeks prior. DiMaggio said he did not know DiTrapani well. (Note: Trying to keep the two Jerome DiMaggios straight is a chore.) Also questioned was Frank Scaler, 610 North 3rd Street, who said he had not seen Johnny since January. Scaler said he had no business association with DiTrapani, and that DiTrapani had no financial interest in his bar.
Vito Parenti, 36, owner of Vito’s Pizzeria (4323 West North Avenue), was questioned by Schalla, Pelzman and Sorgi on March 21, 1954. Parenti said he was acquainted with John DiTrapani, but never had any business dealings with him and he did not own any part of the pizzeria.
Schalla, Pelzman and Sorgi interviewed Joe Spector, 2920 West Roosevelt, the operator of Spector’s Bar (916 North Water) on March 21, 1954. Spector said a man had come in to his bar in December and offered to sell him whiskey for cheap. The man was about 46-50 years old, dirty blonde hair and possibly German or Polish. Spector dismissed him as “just another drunk who was talking foolishly”. The man also spoke with a man Spector knew as “Poker” (Erwin Pokrzawinski, 1523 North Farwell). Sorgi later showed Poker photos from the FBI and Chicago Police, and he was not able to identify them.
Schalla and Sorgi questioned Oscar Plotkin, 44, 777 North 5th Street, the proprietor of the Clock Bar (715 North 5th), Scenic Lounge (730 North 5th) and the Modern Construction Company (730 North 5th) on March 21, 1954. Plotkin said he only knew DiTrapani well enough to say hello, and the last time he ran into him was a year ago o na train to Chicago. Plotkin said hello and hoped to start up a conversation, but DiTrapani said hello and kept walking. [Twenty years later, Plotkin would be a convicted gambler and ordered not to enter the Clock Bar.]
Marian “Terry” Gigstead, 30, 2845 North 81st Street, was questioned by Lt. Joseph Schalla on March 21, 1954 at 3:20pm. Although she had tried to deny her relationship with John DiTrapani in an earlier interrogation, this time she was far more forthcoming. She admitted having dated DiTrapani for the past ten years, and she confirmed the rumor that she had given birth to DiTrapani’s stillborn baby girl at Mount Sinai Hospital on November 2, 1947. DiTrapani paid the medical bills. She said they had gone to Chicago quite a few times, usually staying at the Croydon Hotel. On at least one occasion, they met up with John’s wife’s friend “Afe” (Frank Mulea). She said that she fought with John on occasion, one time he hit her after she bit his arm. On another occasion, he knocked her head against a door and her tooth came out. To cover up her relationship, she had John call himself “Jack Dennis” when he called, and while she was pregnant she told her parents she was in Chicago and had a friend, Eunia Hammer of 1100 Berry Avenue, forward letters from Milwaukee to Chicago and back.
The police received a postcard on March 22, 1954 telling them that John DiTrapani had a “sweetheart”. When questioned, tavern operator Dan Markey told them that a 30-year old blond girl, 5’5″, 135lb lived in an apartment at 2726 West Clybourn (next to his tavern at 2731). He had seen DiTrapani’s Cadillac parked out front two or three times a week. After questioning the apartment manager, the girl was identified as telephone company employee Dorothea DeLoye, who had moved in November to 2081 AlaWai Boulevard, Honolulu, Hawaii. Detective Tobias Golembrewski spoke with a Mr. Penbrock from the personnel department and informed him to have DeLoye contact the detective bureau for a statement if she ever returned… as of April 19, she had not and was terminated.
Wendling Kraft, Secretary of of the Wisconsin Tavern Keepers Association, came to the office of Acting Captain Rudolph Glaser at 3:05pm on March 22, 1954 and told Glaser that he heard that DiTrapani had offered Frank Scherrenberger 100 cases of whiskey about a year ago at a discount price, as he said they came from a wholesaler up north. The whiskey was Old Quaker and sold for $1.45 per half pint — DiTrapani offered it for $1.19. The offer was turned down because Old Quaker was not a popular seller. Kraft further suggested talking to DiTrapani’s stock clerk and his brother, George and Joseph Panich, who were notable soccer players. Kraft also said that their was “no rivalry” between his organization and the Progressive Tavern Owners Organization. The only real difference is that the Progressives supported a bill to allow taverns a class C license, which would allow them to sell liquor by the case.
Andrew J. Kurath, President of the Wisconsin Tavern Keepers Association, came in to Glaser’s office at 3:20pm and told him that about a month ago an Italian, 35-40 years old, came to his tavern at 2301 South Burrell Street and offered him a case of 7-Crown Seagrams for $32 a case. The man was turned down. After being shown photos, Kurath said that Joseph Charles Guarniere resembled the men in question (though the man in the photo had a mustache and the man Kurath met did not). Guarniere was presently confined to a jail in Terre Haute, Indiana, but was due to be released soon.
Cab driver Rocco Sansone, 2324 South 18th Street, was interviewed by Officers August Knueppel and Leroy Oppmann at 6:45pm on March 22, 1954. Sansone had been in the LaTosca at the time of the shooting, and knew DiTrapani when he worked as a porter in the winter of 1950-1951. Sansone said DiTrapani would receive large sums of money at night, but was not sure what he did with the money. Sansone also recalled that a few years ago, DiTrapani was “instrumental” in putting a man in Waupun prison who had stolen something from him. The police were unclear about what this meant (they surmised whiskey) because the only complaint DiTrapani had filed with them did not lead to charges.
Robert Smith, 16, 717 South 28th Street, was approached by a 40-year old Italian man at 11:10am on March 23, 1954 who knew his name was Robert. The man was driving a 1949 or1950 black Ford Tudor with no license plates. Smith was offered $50 if he would meet the man on March 26 at the New York Coffee Pot (at South 27th and National) and be given directions on how to break in to Johnnie’s Super Bar (2632 West National) and set the place on fire. Smith instead went to the police. They, in turn, told him to cooperate with the man.
Lt. Joseph Schalla interviewed Nick Gentilli, 39, 1018 East Ogden on March 23. Gentilli, who was employed as a salesman for the WB Construction Company, said he saw John DiTrapani with Jerry O’Rourke and August Maniaci at 1:00pm in Club Midnight on the day of the murder. Gentilli said on the evening of the murder he was at Rocco’s Tavern and at the Belmont Hotel in Room 336 with his girlfriend, Ruth Bourdeaux.
On March 23, 1954 at 2:00pm, the police had Charles J. Connors, a sales rep for Smith and Wesson, call his company in Springfield, Massachusetts and find the origin of the .357 Magnum found in DiTrapani’s car. Fred Miller of Smith and Wesson ran the serial number (S-82906) and found that the gun had been shipped to Klein Sporting Goods in Chicago on June 10, 1952. William Waldmann of Klein Sporting Goods was called at 2:15pm and he verified that they had the gun and sold it on June 13 to a Frank Pizzo (alias Cosmo Pizzo) of 1181 South Humphrey, Oak Park, Illinois.
Patrolman Franklin A. Smith suggested a suspect on March 23: Everett LaVerne Hoyle, 25, of Waukegan. Hoyle was said to carry an Army-issued .45 Colt automatic in his car, a 1951 Chevy BelAir. Hoyle had allegedly threatened to shoot a Milwaukee informant who worked for Smith. The informant said that Hoyle came to Milwaukee three or four times a week and frequented night clubs, living above and beyond his means as an auto supply store employee.
Officers R. Polsen and L. Surges were called in to the District Attorney’s office at 4:45pm on March 23, 1954 by Detective Michael Curley. They found Hyman Rosenfeld, 64, who wanted to tell them something confidentially: his friend George Polonsky, 47, the owner of the Green Bay Fish market at 10th and Walnut, was offered $2000 a few days before the murder to store stolen whiskey from Chicago. Polonsky turned down the offer. Rosenfeld did not know the man’s name, but said that Polonsky would, and that they were both friends of John DiTrapani. (When Polonsky was questioned about this, he confirmed that he knew DiTrapani and would get change from his bar in the morning, but knew nothing about the alleged storage offer.)
Sergeant Eugene Julien interviewed attorney William J. Calvano, 41, on March 23 at 7:30pm. Calvano was “perturbed” that the newspapers had mentioned his name in connection with the murder. He said that although he had known DiTrapani for 25 years, he was “very close-mouthed” and did not talk about his dealings. Calvano had only dealt with DiTrapani professionally twice: several years prior in a civil case, and more recently in August 1953 when Calvano was working for Michele Mineo, who has purchased DiTrapani’s home on 45th Street. DiTrapani’s attorney at that time was Abe Skolnick. (Calvano was an interesting figure — he would be the national president of UNICO, helped found an Italian golf tournament and co-owned the Three Dolls bar with funeral director Michael Amato.)
Lieutenant J. Hurley interviewed Edward Smalley, the proprietor of Smalley’s Tavern (19th at Vliet) at 8:00pm on March 23. Smalley said that one night in the previous December, he was approached by a 32-35 year old man who offered to sell him $80,000 worth of Seagrams and Schenley whiskey for $25,000. The man said they could “doctor” the bottles by putting Montana and Colorado stamps on them. Smalley allegedly turned the man down, saying he did not have that much money to invest. Smalley told Hurley that possibly John DiTrapani had offered to buy the stock and then reneged. Hurley wrote in his report, “The whole story sounds fantastic in a way because I have known Smalley for the past 25 years but have not seen him for the past 7-8 years, and these years have brought a terrible change in the man. Tonight he was 2/3 drunk, he hadn’t shaved for a couple of days and appears about ready for the ‘D.T.s’ so maybe this entire affair is just one of his drunken pipe dreams.” (Smalley was interviewed again a week later by Officer Joseph A. Jender and told the same story, only changing the tax stamps to be from Wyoming. He was questioned again by Officers August Knueppel and George Neff, along with Sergeant E. Julien and the story was the same.)
Sergeant George J. Pelman received an anonymous tip on March 23 to look into Erwin Doege, 37, the owner of Doege’s Custard at 4241 North Teutonia. The tipster said Doege knew DiTrapani, owned a .45 automatic blue steel pistol, and was with Ralph Hugo Sheehan, 27, at the Holiday House the night of the murder. Doege was “quite a gambler” who preferred horse racing, and was “keeping company” with one DiTrapani’s girlfriends, a woman named Helen.
Lieutenant Joseph Schalla went to Chicago on Tuesday, March 23, 1954 to confer with the FBI and Chicago Police Department. Special Agent Roy Moore told Schalla that there had not been a liquor hijacking in the past three years that had not been solved. Moore offered photos of recent hijackers: John Grant, Romeo Gagne, Manuel Moniz, Milton Putman, Raymond Williams, Louis Kazan and Armie Gagne. They had been sent to a federal penitentiary in February.
Lieutenant Sullivan of the Chicago Police Department told them a similar story: they only had one hijacking in the past year that had not cleared, and it involved 120 cases of Crabtree whiskey. Sullivan offered more photos of known hijackers: Hank Hendricks, William Sheehan, Morris Marsh, Amerigo DePieto, Anthony Ozzanto, Joseph Ozzanto, Anthony DeRosa, Felix Alderisio and Albert Frabotta.
Jerome DiMaggio, 1512 North Warren Avenue, was interviewed by Joseph Schalla, George Pelzman and Herman Sorgi on March 24, 1954. DiMaggio said the last time he saw DiTrapani was a month ago in his father’s restaurant. He was currently employed by the McHugh Construction Company at the County Hospital as a truck driver. He said he did not associate with DiTrapani because “DiTrapani was too big a man and out of his class.”
On March 24, it occurred to Officer Frank Zajdel that the officers who looked into license plate number C50-387 had checked the wrong year. Adjusting for that, the correct owner was ascertained to be Herbert J. Helmrich, 26, of 1809 West Wright Street. A check revealed Helmrich to have a history of multiple counts of auto theft, and his ex-wife Theodosia Clementina Helmrich was on probation for forgery. When questioned, Helmrich denied knowing DiTrapani and there was nothing incriminating found in his car. Helmrich said that last week on March 15, he had lent his car to Steve Karegeannes.
Two officers were dispatched to 717 South 28th Street to talk with Robert Smith on March 24. Smith now claimed that he went to a drug store at 2401 West State Street to eat his lunch, when he was approached by an unshaven man carrying newspapers. The man gave him a note reading, “Don’t try anything funny Friday, because we are watching you.” Smith became angry and threw the note at him. He then called the police.
Officers interviewed Erwin Henry Doege, 37, on March 24, and he told them that he had been working at his custard stand until 1:30am the night of the murder, though he admitted knowing DiTrapani. He further admitted being a gambler and formerly employing Terry Gigstead. The police confiscated a Colt .45 revolver (serial #951614) that he said he purchased for $14 from an ex-service man whom he would not name. Doege was arrested in 1942 for owning two nickel slot machines and had a lengthy traffic record. Doege admitted having a girlfriend (despite being married to the former Arlene Boldt), but would not give her name.
Sgt. Eugene Julien interviewed Jack Enea, 44, 1506 North Jackson Street, at 9:00pm on Wednesday, March 24, 1954. Enea, the proprietor of Jack’s Tavern (1932 West St. Paul), said he had been a very good friend of DiTrapani’s for the past 25 or 30 years, but had no seen him since the funeral of Thomas Albano at Our Lady of Pompeii Church. Enea did say that DiTrapani had picked up Terry Gigstead from his tavern “15 or 25 times” in the last year, using it as a meeting place. When asked about “Little Pete”, Enea told Julien that this was Peter Gargano, the operator of the Lake County Music Company in North Chicago. Jack Enea’s nephew Joseph DeSalvo was married to Gargano’s daughter. DeSalvo operated a tavern in North Chicago given to him by Gargano. Coincidentally, Gargano had been in Milwaukee just the previous night and had dinner with Enea at the Belmont Hotel.
Detective Walter Stevens interviewed attorney Abe Skolnick on March 25 at 9:30am at 710 North Plankinton Avenue (Room 610). Skolnick said he had known DiTrapani for ten years, but knew little of his business affairs. Skolnick had been DiTrapani’s attorney for the purchase of his Pine Lake property.
John Volpe, 34, 2139 North HiMount Boulevard, was questioned at the Safety Building by Captain Rudolph Glaser at 10:10am on March 25, 1954. Also present were Lt. Schalla and Detective Carl Dittman. Volpe said that the only four people with a financial interest in the Holiday House were himself, Bruno Ramazini, and their wives. Volpe said he had known DiTrapani for 15 years, but started to know him personally in the last year when the restaurant had a burglary and Volpe believed DiTrapani might know who had done it, since rumors were that he was in the “Black Hand Club”. Other names associated with the “Black Hand” were Gus Chiaverotti, Frank LaGalbo, John Alioto and August Maniaci, according to Volpe. He had traveled to Chicago with DiTrapani only once and did not stay the night — it was for the Marciano-Walcott championship fight. While there, they ran into three men in the lobby at the Conrad Hilton Hotel.
Sergeant George J. Pelzman received a tip from a confidential source on March 25 that DiTrapani was involved in a $5000 stolen liquor deal in 1942 or 1943. Chuck Kezele lost $5000 on the deal. Kezele’s brother Fred Kezele was part-owner of Johnny’s Super Bar. The source suggested speaking to Chuck’s former wife, Helen Blaskowitz, who has since remarried. Chuck had supposedly lived in Hayward. A quick check revealed that Helen had married Patrolman Anthony Crivello and they were currently vacationing in Florida. Chuck Kezele was believed to be in Iowa. No records were found of any $5000 liquor deal.
Sergeant Eugene Julien spoke with Garrett Stell, the owner of Sailor Ann’s Tavern on Florida Street on March 25. Stell said that DiTrapani would come in to his bar sometimes with his girlfriend Terry, and occasionally with Babe Shaw (contrary to what Shaw claimed). Stell said that DiTrapani and Terry were in the bar on Valentine’s Day and he overheard him offering to buy Terry a white Cadillac. Garrett called over Erwin R. Sell, the owner of the C. A. Feisst Company in Watertown. Sell said that he had known DiTrapani for 12 years and when he was in town, they would have dinner together at the Holiday House or at Chico’s. He had met the LaGalbo brothers through DiTrapani. Sell said on more than one occasion DiTrapani would chat up girls in his presence, but would not eat at the Blue Dahlia because the owner (Leo Tessner)’s daughter was friends with DiTrapani’s daughter, and he would not want it getting back to his family if he met any women he knew there. Sell said about two years ago, there was a wholesale liquor company called the Joseph Miller Company in LaCrosse, and when the owner’s wife died, DiTrapani bought $60 cases of 3-star Hennessey for $30 a piece. He knew that DiTrapani and Terry would go to a restaurant called the Wagon Wheel near Chicago or a place in Beaver Dam.
On March 25, 1954 at 12:35pm, Angeline and Catherine DiTrapani were questioned at the safety building by Lt. Joseph Schalla. Most of the questioning covered familiar ground, but Angeline revealed John had a $100,000 life insurance policy and that they rented out a building on the 2800 block of West Center Street. The building was two businesses with two flats upstairs, on the triangle across from a bank. Angeline did not know about John’s income or taxes, as this was handled by their accountant, a Mrs. Gremstein. Angeline said they had gone on a two week trip to New York in 1951, having driven through Canada. They stopped at Atlantic City and visited John’s relatives in Philadelphia. Sergeant Pelzman broke the news to Angeline (outside of Catherine’s presence) that Terry had given birth to John’s stillborn baby at Mt. Sinai Hospital, and she had also had four or five abortions in Chicago. John had allegedly taken care of the bills. Questioning Catherine alone, she told them she had gone to Mount Mary College to study occupational therapy. She said she loved her dad and that he “was just perfect.” She said she was in California a while, and went to visit her dad in Las Vegas, but he had to leave to check up on some oil wells in Denver. He went to Denver with Rosario Gagliano, the brother of Frank “Marty” Gagliano (who had been married to John’s deceased sister).
Detectives interviewed Steve Karageannes, 31, the owner of the doughnut shop at 541 West Wisconsin Avenue, at 12:45pm on March 25, 1954. Steve said he did borrow Herbert Helmrich’s car from Monday through Wednesday because his own car was being serviced. Steve and his brother Constantine, 33, were driving around finding out the prices of food at the Ritz Tavern and Jerry’s Pleasnt Bar, both operated by Elmer Grosenick. They did this at the request of Tony Machi, who had just opened a super bar at the corner of Port Washington Road and Green Bay Avenue. (These roads no longer intersect, as Green Bay becomes Martin Luther King once it enters the downtown area.)
Sergeant George J. Pelzman interviewed Mrs. Smith, 717 South 28th Street, about her son Robert. She said that she and her husband believe Robert made up his story about the potential arson to get out of attending school.
Officers George Neff and August Knueppel went to the Stratford Arms Hotel (1402 West Wisconsin Avenue) at 7:30pm on March 25, to speak with hotel manager Henry Goodman. Goodman said on the evening of DiTrapani’s murder, two suspicious men with “tough appearances” checked into the hotel. They spent their time going back and forth from their room to the lobby, and asked for a deck of cards. The men registered as Oscar George Biedenstein and Richard Lawrence Ruehman, both of 6344A Bancroft Street, St. Louis. They were driving a dark green 1953 Chrysler Imperial with Missouri license number Y52-956, registered to Ronald Ruehman. (St. Louis checked their records and found that Biedenstern, 44, had a record of robbery, burglary, assault to kill, rape and carrying concealed weapons. Ruehman, 48, had a record of larceny. Both had “the reputation of being crooked gamblers and con men.”)
Deputy Inspector Howard Johnson planted officers at Chico’s Restaurant and 1414 East Albion Street (Frank LaGalbo’s home) from 6:00pm to midnight on March 25, in the hopes of catching LaGalbo. At 7:50pm, Paul LaGalbo and attorney Dominic Frinzi asked Johnson why there was a police plant. Johnson refused to answer other than to ask if Frinzi would produce his client. “I’m not ready for that yet,” he said. Both men went out the back door of Chico’s and entered Frank’s house (both places shared backyards).
Michael Paul Enea, 770 North Marshall, was questioned at the Safety Building by Sergeant Hans Kremsreiter at 2:15am on March 26, 1954. Enea said he was married, but his wife lived in Los Angeles and his daughter Stephanie was being raised by his brother Casper. Enea was a bartender at Chico’s and was working with Sol LaGalbo the night DiTrapani was killed. Frank LaGalbo was in and out of the building all night, stopping in last at 4am to check the daily receipts. Enea had previously worked for brother Jack’s tavern in 1951 or 1952.
Officers Walter Cleary and Kenneth Marple were dispatched by Lieutenant Raymond Dunham at 3:00am on March 26 to the Schlitz Brewery to talk with William Tegge, 42. Tegge wanted to tell the officers about his former brother-in-law, Robert Fanello, who used to be a “base viol player” at Johnny’s Round-Up from 1945 to 1947. Fanello and DiTrapani were friends, and would take overnight trips to Chicago for the purpose of meeting women. This caused Fanello get to get divorced, and his wife and five children moved to a farm near Green Bay that was owned by Fanello’s father. (After questioning Fanello’s 19-year old daughter, Jacqueline Kuczkowski, 820B North Marshall Street, the police found out that Fanello was working in Cuba until mid-April.)
Detective Glaser received an anonymous letter on March 26, 1954. The writer claimed that John DiTrapani had been romancing “two Boston Store Employees” from the cosmetic department, a Pat Landon and another girl named Mary. Johnny “spent very lavishly on them and when Pat Landon’s Husband returned from the Army and became a bartender he heard about it and threatened [Denny] Holland and the dead man.” Johnny “drifted on to new dates and Pat Landon became a Thursday… guest of [Joe] Krasno and [Syd] Brodson at their favorite bar on 5th St.” The writer speculated the murder may have been “some form of gambler’s war”.
Officer Marple questioned Sam Valona on March 26, where he said he was married and had five children. Valona said he had worked at the Heid Company for the past fourteen years. Valona admitted that his legal name was Sam Costa and that he was born in Chicago in 1911. He said when he was 17, he was arrested along with Fran Mulea for attempted burglary and received a 1-5 year sentence. He served a little over three years and then moved to Milwaukee upon being released. At this time, he started using the name James Valona, with “Valona” being his grandmother’s maiden name. He said he never legally changed his name, but did not want to be associated with his police record. Valona said he had not seen Frank “Afe” Mulea since 1944, at which time Mulea was in the Army and stopped by Milwaukee to visit.
Robert Smith went to the New York Coffee Pot at 11:00am on Friday, March 26, as scheduled. The police received permission from assistant principal Mr. Shy, West Division High School, for Smith to be there. After 11:30am, no one had shown up, so Smith went back to school. The police were not sure whether or not Smith had made the story up, but suspected the man may not have shown up because there were police nearby due to a hold-up at the drug store the night before.
On Friday, March 26, 1954, Anthony Joseph DePalma, 41, of 2019 North Booth, manager of Johnny’s Roundup, was robbed at the tavern in broad daylight and $9000 was stolen. DePalma was in the alley behind Johnny’s Round Up at 2665 North 27th Street at 12:10pm when two men forced him into his car and had him drive to the corner of 25th and Vine, without looking at either man, and to get out of the car. They then stole his green 1948 Tudor Buick Special sedan, license number B58-127. DePalma had so much cash on him because he had just returned from the bank, and the tavern was used by many patrons as a place to cash their paychecks. After the car was recovered three days later (at 619 North 19th Street), Detective Herman Sorgi submitted it to the State Crime Lab in Madison on March 31 where debris samples were taken, in the hopes that they could be traced to the thieves (and ultimately DiTrapani’s killer).
Erwin Sell was questioned by Lt. Joseph Schalla at the Safety Building on March 26 at 3:20pm. While he knew nothing of DiTrapani’s personal life, he was able to name some business interests. Sell said that John had done business with Pete Schoemann of the Northwest Liquor Company in Stevens Point. He had also purchased the liquidated stock of Joseph Miller Company from Bonded Spirits Company of Oconomowoc.
Sergeant Eugene Julien was at Johnny’s Round-Up at 8:15pm on March 26 in an attempt to locate .45 caliber automatic cartridges. With the assistance of bookkeeper Ruth Kuehnel, Julien found three cartridges that Kuehnel had put in a drawer over a year and a half ago. Kuehnel also found another gun, a 32/20 Smith and Wesson, fully loaded, with the serial number obliterated.
Also on March 26, Sergeant George Pelzman received information from a confidential source that DiTrapani had “an intimate friend” named Katherine Moekelke. The phone number given matched that of Thomas Hirt, 8172 North 43rd Street, and Pelzman suspected the woman may have actually been Mrs. Mary Hirt Knuese. (Her husband may possibly have been related to Wauwatosa’s Mayor Knuese.)
At 7:35am, March 27, 1954, Lieutenant Ray Dunham received an anonymous phone call from a man with a low voice who said, “If you want to solve the DiTrapani murder, check at 513 37th Avenue, Superior, Wisconsin.” The man then hung up. A letter was immediately sent to Superior Chief of Police Arthur E. Buchanan to investigate. The address was that of Dorothy Hamilton, an old maid, who had been getting prank calls from a former relative through marriage, William Callahan, who lived in Room 611 at the Martin Hotel in Milwaukee. When confronted, Callahan, 34, admitted he had made the call while intoxicated and blamed his marital problems on Hamilton.
On Saturday morning, March 27, officers went to the home of Thomas Hirt, 59, 8172 North 43rd Street, and asked for a Katherine Mackelke. Hirt said that Katherine was his 15-year old granddaughter, and they probably wanted to talk to Mrs. Mary Hirt Knuese, 36, of 8136 North 43rd Street. Mrs. Hirt called her daughter, and Mary came over immediately.
Mary Knuese said she had been married three times: first to a Mackelke, then a Brummer and currently to a Knuese. She had been in the tavern business in Mequon with her mother in 1940 and became acquainted with John DiTrapani. John was a member of a railroad club called the Royal Sons of Borneo (RSOB) that met at the Mequon tavern. The two started seeing each other regularly and would take monthly trips to Chicago for bowling tournaments or just for enjoyment. They would stay at hotels (often the Craydon), and if they could not get a room, John would call William Kaplan, who owned the Plantation Supper Club (a known gambling hangout) in Mercer, Wisconsin. (Kaplan lived in Chicago.) Mary did know John was married, as he had bought her a diamond and other expensive gifts, and she had been to his home and tavern on several occasions. Mary found out after dating John for two years because she ended up in the Deaconess Hospital and needed a blood transfusion — her brother-in-law called Johnny’s Roundup, and from there the bartender called John’s house. Angeline answered. John convinced Mary to stay with him for two more years with false promises of divorce, but after that he packed her bags and fled to California. Mary said she had formerly worked for both Alioto’s restaurant at 64th and National and also the Holiday House.
Lieutenant Joseph Schalla interviewed John Gardetto at 2:30pm on Saturday, March 27. He had not seen John DiTrapani in a month, when DiTrapani had stopped by to visit Gardetto’s wife, Frances. While there, they talked about Angelo Gardetto’s house, which Angelo had built himself. Before visiting Gardetto, DiTrapani had been visiting Mrs. Ray Falcano (Frances’ cousin), who had a newborn child. Gardetto had no suggestions about who killed John DiTrapani.
At 4:30pm, March 27, 1954, Lieutenant Schalla received an anonymous tip that a Frank Concigrana may be a bookie, and that both Concigrana and Thomas Donna, a Greek, played cards with DiTrapani the night he was murdered. Concigrana would apparently bet the equivalent of a week’s salary on horses and baseball and was able to purchase a new car every year. (When Donna, 32, was questioned two days later, he said he had not seen John DiTrapani since 1943 and had never played cards with him.)
Louis Engebretsen, 49, 1318 East Seeley Street, was arrested at Johnny’s Super Bar at 4:40pm on March 27 for being drunk and disorderly. At the time of booking, Engebretsen said his brother-in-law was Fred Kezele, the manager of Johnny’s. He said Kezele had a brother, Charles Kezele, who was in the bootleg liquor business in Prairie du Chien. Engebretsen said that DiTrapani had been in the business with Kezele, running booze to Iowa, and the two of them were arrested in 1947 and fined $1100. Engebretson said that Charles Kezele may know more, and that the .38 revolver found in the death car may be Kezele’s.
Officers went to Johnny’s Super Bar at 9:45pm on March 27 and spoke with Fred Kezele, asking if he knew where any guns or cartridges could be found in the bar. Kezele produced four .38 cartridges from the office and a Spanish-made .38 pistol from behind the bar.
By March 28, the .357 Magnum found in DiTrapani’s possession was traced back to Cosmo Frank Pizzo, 36, 209 South Central Avenue, Chicago. Pizzo explained to the police that he had purchased the gun from Klein’s Sporting Goods for $110, but never fired it because he was broke and shells were $5 per box. Pizzo’s brother Peter opened a pizzeria (Pete’s Pizzeria) at the corner of Fond du Lac Avenue and 27th Street in Milwaukee, and became acquainted with DiTrapani. Meeting John through his brother, Cosmo offered the gun to John and he agreed to buy it for $112. Beyond that, Pizzo did not know much about John DiTrapani or any of his dealings. The police further concluded that since Pizzo had no criminal record, he was likely not a suspect or connected in any way.
Detective John Lavin spoke with Peter Pizzo, 31, 4209 North Downer Avenue, on March 28. Both Peter and his wife, the former Jennie Giannattasia, were originally from Chicago. They now resided in Milwaukee where they had four children and operated Pete’s Pizzeria (2638 West Fond du Lac Avenue) since October 1949. Pizzo said he did not know John DiTrapani on a social level, but only as a customer who sometimes stopped by with one of his bartenders and his nephew Frank Balistrieri.
Fred Kezele spoke with police on March 28 and said that John DiTrapani had known his brother Charles Kezele for many years because DiTrapani would buy groceries from the family of Charles’ ex-wife. On one occasion, Charles needed money but John ad Fred refused to give him any. They did give him $800 worth of whiskey to dispose of, which Fred Kezele said may or may not have been the whiskey Charles got in trouble for in Prairie du Chien. Later, Charles needed money again because he owed his brother-in-law Louis Engebretson because of a business failure. Fred again refused to give him money, but did help him obtain a $5000 loan.
Patrolman Harold Gillman spoke to William Minkle, 37, at the Sportsmans Bar at 1:30am March 29. Minkle claimed to know “who shot John DiTrapani”, whom he considered “a good friend”. The man who “put the finger on him” had the initials F.B. and “frequented the Belmont Hotel after 2am.” He refused to name the man “because he wanted to stay alive.” Minkle told Gillman that he “hates cops” but thought Gillman was alright because of the way he “handled a former situation.” Gillman wrote in his report that Minkle was “a loudmouth and a pest.” What was not in the report: who was FB? We must assume it was Frank Balistrieri, who was known to hold office late nights in the Belmont coffee shop.
Sgt. George Pelzman, Catherine DiTrapani and James “Sam” Valona went to John DiTrapani’s Pine Lake cottage in Nashota on the morning of March 29. They searched the house, guest house, garage and boat house and found nothing of interest, no guns and no ammunition. Both Gordon Davy (a plumber from Nashota) and neighbor Albert Sternkopf, 38, said they saw a late model green Cadillac Coupe Deville driving down the private road on the morning of the murder and did not recognize it as belonging to any of the homeowners. Sternkopf said because of the way the homes were positioned on the private drive, the car could only have gone to the DiTrapani cottage, and it stayed there a half hour.
Detective John Lavin interviewed Edward V. Gugliatto, 33 and Lawrence Wollersheim, 32, on March 29, 1954. These men were partners in the Mid-City Super Bar at 2460 West Vliet since 1947, and were also brothers-in-law (Lawrence married Edward’s sister in Iron River, Michigan). Gugliatto was originally from Caspian, Michigan and settled in Milwaukee after the war. Wollersheim was from Iron River, and he, too, came to Milwaukee after the war. Both men had known DiTrapani through the Progressive Tavern Keepers Association. They denied ever associating with DiTrapani socially, aside from one lunch at the Holiday House in January 1954.
Officer Joseph Jender spoke with Lester Schick, the landlord of Johnny’s Super Bar on National Avenue, on March 29. Schick said that DiTrapani was a quiet man and stayed by himself at bowling parties he was invited to. The current rent was $205 and Schick never received any complaint about it, with the current lease running from 1949 until 1955.
Acting Captain Rudolph Glaser received a letter from Sheriff Rudy Reichert of Jefferson County on March 29, 1954, concerning Mrs. Elsie Rupprecht. Reichert said, “We know of this person very well… She has great visions and nightmares and then believes them to be a reality… We have even tried to have relatives sign an application for commitment to a mental hospital, but I guess she is a little too smart. I got a letter just last Tuesday in which she complained of someone being responsible for sending spirits and making her head buzzy and being all mixed up. I am sorry she troubled you, but I don’t pay any attention to her complaints anymore.”
The police spoke with Lulu Gregory Alexander, 56, on March 29 at 6:45pm. Alexander was the DiTrapani’s maid, who had worked for them five days a week for the past tens years (having off on Wednesdays and Sundays). She was paid $14 per week plus clothes and food. Alexander knew little of John DiTrapani’s personal life and said the family never threw any parties. She did join them to their summer resort in 1953, where one party was held, but the only name she caught there was Fred Kezele. The police report says that “she is not the most intelligent lady”.
On the evening of March 29, the police received some anonymous information that John DiTrapani, Frank LaGalbo and other men would occasionally go into the basement of Chico’s. Sometimes it would be for only twenty minutes and then they would leave. The anonymous tipster said the other men may be from Chicago, as they were Italian but did not look familiar. One of them was “rough looking” and “greasy”. The informant also heard that “weeks back” the undertaker who buried Al Capone was at the Holiday House and he was in town to pick up a body. Allegedly, someone went out to the parking lot and discovered a case of guns in his hearse. Police asked John Volpe about the undertaker, and he confirmed that Pete Granada had been in town a few weeks ago for the purpose of picking up a body, but he did not know if anyone saw a case of guns in his hearse. Volpe said that the informant was certainly wrong about the undertaker being the same one who buried Capone — the Rago Brothers handled that job.
An anonymous phone call came in on March 29 to Lieutenant Leo Woelfel, saying that Frank LaGalbo was staying with his brother Russ LaGalbo at 3258 North Hackett Avenue. They had another brother, Sal, who lived at 3256 North Hackett. The informant also said that Frank LaGalbo’s station wagon had a bullet hole in it from an alleged hunting accident last autumn. The car was allegedly in Madison. LaGalbo was later asked about this hole and said that last fall, during deer season, he was with Al Giovanelli and Al accidentally discharged his weapon in the direction of the station wagon while loading it. Giovanelli corroborated the story.
Police interviewed Mrs. Frances Szabados at the Junior Age Company on March 29. She informed them that while in Milwaukee, she was not aware of his ever having a gun. He had now been stationed in Germany for the last three years, and had never sent a gun home. Police then contacted Captain Lowell Bruhn to contact Mr. Szabados.
Two officers were dispatched on March 29 by Lt. Armstrong to speak with Howard Foundries inspector Samuel Louis Mattson, 34, at his home at 1114 East Russell Avenue. Mattson told them that in 1951, Santo James Dentice, 51, the owner of Sandy’s Tap, had asked Mattson if he wanted to make some money by selling fifty cases of pure corn whiskey. Mattson said he could not move that much product and the discussion never happened again. The police noted in their report that both men had police records and falsely noted that Santo was a brother to the murdered Jack Dentice.
Detectives Walter Heller and Carl Dittmann questioned Mary Kinnally (or Canelli), operator of Mary’s Lunch at 1307 East Brady Street, on March 29. Kinnally said she had recently gone to Paul’s Tap, 1311 East Brady (owned by Paul Ebert), to get some change when she encountered one of her Italian patrons whose name she did not know. He said that John DiTrapani “got what was coming to him” because he had double-crossed some people on a liquor deal. The man further stated that three other taverns had owners who would be killed next: Sardino’s Inn at 1617 North Farwell, Fazios at 1601 North Jackson and Chico’s at 1548 North Farwell. (Sardino’s was started by Joseph F. Sardino in February 1946 and still existed in September 1986.) Sergeant George Williams re-contacted Kinnally a few days later and showed her a photo of Jerome DiMaggio, and she said that was not the man.
Sergeant Robert Medich sent word to Captain Aaron Cowels on March 29 that Frank LaGalbo was hiding out at a resort in Mercer, Wisconsin. After evading the police, LaGalbo finally agreed to speak with them Tuesday morning, March 30, in the office of his attorney, Dominic Frinzi. Frinzi released a statement saying that LaGalbo “was frightened because of the possible treatment he would receive from police who, in 1937, kept him in jail seven weeks before releasing him.”
LaGalbo appeared in the Safety Building at 9:15am on March 30, and answered questions from Captain Rudolph Glaser, Lt. Joseph Schalla, Sergeant George Pelzman and Detective Herman Sorgi. Attorney Frinzi came in near the end. LaGalbo said he had known DiTrapani when they were kids, they drifted apart, and then knew each other better again in recent years because of their businesses. They would talk multiple times a week. Frank and John occasionally went to Chicago for fights (such as Kid Gavilon versus Johnny “Brittle” Bratton) and funerals, but Frank claimed that John knew more people and if he (Frank) were alone in Chicago, he would get lost. He further said they had never stayed overnight. One funeral they attended was in 1953, John Caminiti’s brother-in-law. Frank was very evasive with his answers, especially concerning the night of the murder. He “could not recall” a number of things. The morning of the murder, he claimed to speak with Detective John Zilavy. Frank said John and Pete O’Reilly had purchased oil stock from Jerry O’Rourke. Frank denied knowing Frank Giamo or being in his restaurant (at 2657 South Kinnickinnic Avenue) with Mike Albano and Frank DiNicola on the morning John was killed. Officer Edward Canning, when then called in to the room and questioned by Glaser, said he had seen the man he thought was LaGalbo from behind, wearing a hat, and could not be positive it was him. Canning knew for a fact he had seen DiNicola, though, as he had gone to grade school and high school with him and saw him straight on. Frank flatly denied killing John. When asked about the Mafia, he said, “That is something I don’t know anything about and something that is so old I don’t believe it.” When asked if he was a member, he said, “I am a member of nothing. I am only a United States citizen.” He further denied knowing anyone who was a member.
On Tuesday, March 30, at 2:55pm, State Tax Agents Douglas Hett and M. P. McGinty brought a case of Old Thompson 86.8 proof blended whiskey to the police department that they had found in Johnny’s Roundup. The serial numbers had been removed from the case, and they suspected this might be connected to a hijacking. The Wisconsin tax stamps were still attached, and a list of numbers was sent to Glenmore Distillery Company in Owensboro, Kentucky.
Robert Gigstead, 32, 3509 North 92nd, was questioned by Lt. Joseph Schalla at the Detective Bureau on March 30 at 3:00pm. Robert was Terry Gigstead’s ex-husband, and he admitted that he divorced Terry because of her running around, but he had no animosity towards John DiTrapani. Robert worked for Paul W. LaPointe as a bartender at Frenchy’s (1827 East North Avenue).
Detective Herman Sorgi questioned wholesale fruit merchant Louis Palmisano, 40, 2444 North 41st Street, on March 30. Palmisano said he had been in Mike Scarpace’s tavern (533 East Buffalo) and was in conversation with other Commission merchants discussing the Mike Farina, Jack Dentice and John DiTrapani murders and comparing each one. Sorgi wrote in his report, “Palmisano is a personal friend of mine and has no record neither does he have anything to do with any of these men who are in this Mafia gang!”
On Tuesday, March 30, Patrolman Edward L. spoke with one of his informants, who told him that the Chatterbox Tavern (1014 South 16th Street) was a hangout for men who had served time, and the woman who owned it had once dated Frank LaGalbo. A check of police records did show that LaGalbo and the owner, Alice Polinski, were once arrested at the tavern for drunk and disorderly. The informant said that Johnny’s Round-up had a waitress named Dotty who had once dated DiTrapani and also dated a man named Hank Woody. The informant once saw Dotty pretend to slit her throat with her finger and said that DiTrapani would get his some day. Dotty at one point became pregnant, and the baby was either DiTrapani’s or Woody’s. She got rid of the child.
Officer Joseph Jender received an anonymous phone call on March 31, 1954 telling him that John DiTrapani visited his dentist on the day he was killed. Jender asked Angeline DiTrapani who their dentist was, and she said that it used to be Dr. Burns, but she did not know that John had gone in the past two years. A quick check revealed that Burns was serving in the Army.
Sergeant Adrian Mershon interviewed Cecelia Valenti on March 31, 1954. Valenti lived upstairs at the LaGalbo home and was employed as a waitress for Chico’s. She had been the waitress for the DiTrapani family on the night of the murder. She said she paid no attention to any conversation, but believed that John DiTrapani was “in a jovial mood”.
Santo James Dentice, 50, 575 North Ames Terrace, was questioned by police on March 31. Dentice, a self-employed photographer, denied any involvement that he was in the illegal liquor trade, despite comments made by Samuel Louis Mattson. He further denied knowing John DiTrapani, and said that he was not a brother of Jack Dentice, who had died in 1937, but merely a distant cousin.
Agents Herbert Lampert and Arthur G. Kotchian of the Wisconsin State Tax Beverage Commission came in to Lieutenant Joseph Schalla’s office at 1:45pm on March 31 and said they had found no evidence of hijacked whiskey in town beyond the case of Old Thompson brought in the day before. They did, however, question the legality of Scaler’s New York Bar. They found Angelo Greco tending bar in the mornings without a license, and the tavern’s operator listed as Thomas Albano, who was deceased. Greco had, however, applied for a license on March 11.
Sergeants Hans Kremsreiter and Edward Reitz interviewed Frank Peter Balistrieri, 35, on April 1, 1954 at 2:30am. At the time, Balistrieri was the president and agent of the Hotel Roosevelt and Benkay Incorporated. Balistrieri said that he was born and raised on the same block of North Jackson as John DiTrapani and knew him all his life. They had seen each other occasionally at family gatherings, but never had any business association. Balistrieri said he had seen DiTrapani a few times in the past year, including at the Melody Room, but did not go out with him socially and had no knowledge of DiTrapani being involved in illicit liquor or being part of a “syndicate”. Balistrieri said he did not know much about Frank LaGalbo, and that “he does not know of any Mafia existing in Milwaukee.” He further said he knew nothing about Mike Albano and Frank Scaler, the operators of the New Yorker Bar (610 North Third), but would “cooperate with the Police Department 100%” if he heard anything.
Americo DePietto surrendered himself to Chicago FBI agents at the corner of Cermak and Kostner on the morning of April 1, 1954, for the interstate transport of stolen property. He refused to make any comment.
Sergeant Edward Wolter received a phone call at 9:10pm on April 1 from Raymond L. Ruhr, the dispatcher in Brookfield. Ruhr said that his daughter-in-law bowled in the same league as the mother of Gladys Townsend Heimbaugh, who operated the Empire Beauty Salon (740 North Plankinton Avenue), and that Gladys had been with John DiTrapani just minutes before he was killed.
Patrolman Robert C. Gnatzig was stopped by Clifford Krueger, 30, at 12:10am on April 2, 1954. Krueger said he had just left the 1111 Bar, and an Italian man with long hair and a mustache had been there boasting to him about his alleged friend John DiTrapani. The man claimed that he and Johnny would go out on dates together and Johnny would pay all expenses. The man then slammed a telephone book down on Krueger’s head and asked him what he was made of.
On Friday, April 2, Lt. Schalla went to Chicago to speak with FBI Agent Ray Moore about A. DePietto, and Schalla was told that he had made bond on the federal count for $15,000 and $25,000 for the Kenosha charge. DePietto was fighting extradition to Wisconsin, and due to his being out on bond, Schalla was unable to locate him for questioning. Schalla asked More about the four men who had been in the Holiday House. Moore said Adduci was “a member of the West Side Block and representative for the Italian hoodlums.” Adduci fought the Crime Commission Bill and was “mixed up in” the Fanthom Payroll Bill. The rest of the day was spent trying to find Frank Mulea, although the Chicago detectives advised it was not wise to interrogate him at his house rather than bring him in to the station. Schalla returned to Milwaukee on the 11:00pm train.
Nick Romano, 75, was interviewed by the police on April 2, 1954. He said he had been ill and confined to his residence (619 East Clybourn) the past several weeks. He was acquainted with John DiTrapani, but had no information to offer.
Officers Charles Herck and Richard Polsen stopped by the 1111 Bar (1111 West Wells Street) at 6:45pm on April 2, 1954, to interview the proprietor, Mike Corso, 45. Corso said he was not aware of the incident that allegedly happened in his tavern the night before, but the description given to him matched a man that frequented his tavern and often caused trouble. Corso said the troublesome man was actually in the tavern that afternoon around 2:00 or 3:00 and was asked to leave. He did not know the man’s name. Bartender Robert Carter, 31, said he was on duty the previous night but was also not aware of the incident.
Sergeant Mershon and Detective Lavin contacted Gladys Heimbaugh at her place of business in the Empire Building on April 2, 1954. She claimed that she had never met John DiTrapani and had been on train to Chicago the day of the murder and from there took a flight to Phoenix where she spent the week. She had the stubs to prove this.
(when?) Lorraine Ruth Stamm Gardner, 26, 3238 North Second Street, was questioned at the Safety Building by Lt. Joseph Schalla. Gardner was a model for Junior Age, and formerly worked as a gofer for Dr. William DeMakes. Gardner was in the Holiday House with Kathlyn “Kitty” O’Brien and Betty Puls the night of the murder, and had once gone on a date with John DiTrapani, but she did not see him in the restaurant that night. Bruno Ramazini introduced the women to two men from Chicago, one of whom was an undertaker. Detective Anthony Consiglio noted on an earlier report that Gardner’s modeling was “just a cover up job for her engagements in prostitution.” He further said Gardner had a trip to Florida financed by Dr. DeMakes, and she had personal use of his 1953 Cadillac. Puls and O’Brien corroborated Gardner’s Holiday House recollection.
Detective Alphonze Johnson interviewed Mrs. Elsa Nielson on April 3, 1954. She said she was a former employee of John Triliegi’s at his restaurant at 401 North Plankinton and knew that Triliegi had visited DiTrapani several times four years ago and DiTrapani had been in the restaurant. She believed Triliegi may have moved back to Milwaukee. He boasted about knowing Ralph Capone and owning one of Capone’s sawed-off shotguns. Nielson also said she was bitter because Triliegi owed her $1000. (Triliegi, at this time, was still in Nevada prison.)
Schalla, Pelzman and Sorgi spoke with Mildred Naomi Barcome Habermann, 44, on April 4. Habermann was a waitress at the Holiday House and said that on St. Patrick’s Day between 9 and 10pm, she was asked by one of the Chicago men to make a long distance call to a Mr. Lenon at the Avenue Bar in Miami Beach. She did not hear what the call was about. (An investigation by the Miami Beach Police would later find out that James Lenon was in the Avenue Bar on the night in question. Lenon was a Schlitz beer distributor from McHenry, Illinois. The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office spoke to Lenon and he said the call was merely a social one from Senator Adduci informing Lenon that he would not be attending a St. Patrick’s Day party.)
Officer Dittmann questioned Sam Proite on Sunday, April 4, 1954 regarding suggestions that he may have been involved in burglaries or hijackings. Proite, 43, was living with his brother Joseph A. Proite at 2006 East Newberry and working for Joseph at the New Deal Fruit Market (618 East Ogden Avenue) for the past three years. Prior to that, he was a bartender at Jimmy Fazio’s supper club on Port Washington Road. And prior to that he had worked at the Towne Room. Proite said about three years ago he went to Chicago with Fazio to see a fight, but that was his last time there.
Sergeant Adrian Mershon interviewed Raymond L. Rohr, radio dispatcher for the Brookfield Police, on April 5, 1954. He said his information comes “fifth hand”, but originated with the mother of Gladys Heimbaugh, whose name was Townsend and lived in Brookfield. Rohr did not believe that Townsend had made the statement she did, or at least that it was not true. He said that Heimbaugh was “not a very good looking woman” and Johnny would not “run around with anyone of her appearance”. (Mershon noted in his report that he was also “of the opinion that DiTrapani would not bother to associate with her.”)
Detective Sorgi and Lieutenant Schalla went to Chicago on April 5, 1954 in search of Frank “Afe” Mulea, who had hijacked 1100 cases of whiskey, but were unable to find him. They also tried to find Ned Charles Bakes, whom the Oak Park Police said was shielding FBI fugitive Nick Montos. They further said that Bakes was a partner of James “Cowboy” Mirro and killer Francis Lonio (former partner of the deceased Paul Labriola). He could not be found. Dominic Volpe was contacted at 7:30pm and told the police he had been in Milwaukee on St. Patrick’s Day with the other three men to promote a sales venture of aluminum siding. They stayed at the Holiday House until 1:45am and then continued their night at the Casino Club on North 5th. After this, the other three men went to Room 517 at the Astor Hotel but Volpe went to the LaTosca Cafe, where he stayed until 4:00am when an elderly man wearing glasses told him to leave because police were investigating a murder around the corner. (When police later questioned the night clerk, Mrs. Lyle McMahon, she had no record of these men staying at the Astor… she later found them under “Ned Bakes and party”.)
The police went to the home of Ned Bakes, 1118 South Ashland and spoke with him there. They found that “Bakes” was an alias, his real name being Ignatius Spacchesi (or Spechesi), 49, married and in the siding business. He confirmed Volpe’s story. Bakes said that he had a cousin with the same name who associated with hoodlums, but he did not know much about his cousin’s affairs. (He would later serve time for tax evasion and ultimately be assassinated. The story of a cousin is probably false.) While there, James Adduci arrived. Adduci, 61, lived at 2205 Jackson Boulevard and had been in politics the past twenty years as a State Representative and Senator with intent to run again. Adduci further said that while at the Holiday House, he called a friend in Miami who owned a tavern there, and also called Milwaukee boxing promoter Phil Valley, but only reached his son.
Sergeant Adrian Mershon and Detective James J. Behrendt interviewed an anonymous informant at 9:00am on Monday, April 5, 1954. The informant said for the past few years, on Sunday mornings, a group of stange, dark-complexioned Italians lead by Frank LaGalbo would enter Chico’s and walk single file down the stairs to the basement. The men would remain downstairs for 20 or 30 minutes and then return the same way. John DiTrapani was always one of the seven or eight men. They would only speak to the bartender, who was about 35 years old with a wide, flat nose that was possibly broken. They would only speak in Italian and not even stop for a drink. The informant said he knew most of the Milwaukee Italians, and these men were very dark, well-dressed and probably Sicilian by birth. They never smiled. The informant did not know these men but felt if shown a photograph he could identify them. The informant further said that in regards to Peter Granada, he had been keeping company with a girlfriend of a waitress named Doris from Frenchy’s. The informant said John DiTrapani was a good friend of Tommy Torpe, who operated the Tin Roof whorehouse in Plymouth with his wife Madeline. Madeline’s brother “Pudgy” used to collect for Tommy, but was now employed at Scaler’s Bar. Tommy and Madeline now had a whorehouse in Hallandale, Florida.
Officer Joseph A. Jender interviewed Boston Store employee Patricia Landon, 35, on April 5, 1954. She said that she had known John DiTrapani, but not that well and the two had never dated despite what the letter to Detective Glaser said. She said she had not seen him in about ten years, and at that time he was dating a friend of hers, Mary Miller Materna. Landon said she knew of no argument that her husband had with Denny Holland. She acknowledged that she knew Joe Krasno and Syd Brodson, and did associate with them and had drinks at the Casino Tavern (716 North 5th Street). She had been introduced to the two men by Joseph Just, a mutual friend. (Upon questioning Hank Landon, 34, he denied even knowing Denny Holland and said his only contact with John DiTrapani was when John would buy clothes from his place of business, MacNiel and Moore Men’s Furnishings.)
Officer Joseph Jender spoke with Louis Joseph Volpano, 3777 North 56th Street, on April 5, 1954. Volpano said he had been in Florida at the time of John DiTrapani’s murder and only knew the man as a customer and not personally. He said he did not know many Chicago Italians, and for that matter did not know many Milwaukee Italians. When asked about Jean Stuart, he said he knew her but had not seen her since Christmas and that she was banned from the tavern for being a “rounder”. Louis’ son Joseph Volpano also said he had not seen Stuart since Christmas, as did bartender Augie Renna. Renna further confirmed that he had been told not to serve her if she came in.
Detective Tobias Golembrewski interviewed Phil Valley on Monday, April 5, 1954 at 1:45pm. Valley was the business manager for the Waiters, Waitresses and Cooks Union Local 122 located in the Alhambra Building at 334 West Wisconsin Avenue. Valley said he knew John DiTrapani very well, but had no information that could assist in solving his murder. He said that the waitresses that worked for Johnny were connected with another union, but he (Valley) did work with the bartenders and none of them had ever complained to him about wages, working conditions or other grievances.
Rev. Robert McCarthy of Appleton called the Milwaukee Police Department on April 6, 1954 at 11:00pm. He said that Frank J. McCarthy and Justin McCarthy were visiting him. Frank was previously questioned regarding a note found in Johnny’s pocket. The reverend said they had been receiving calls and visits related to their sister, Elizabeth, asking about her whereabouts. One man who asked about her was 6’4″ and showed no credentials. The brothers were alarmed and gave out no information. Elizabeth was in Manistique, Upper Michigan at the time.
Lieutenant Joseph Schalla went to Chicago on April 7 to interview Frank Mulea, who had been arrested by the Chicago Police Department. At first he refused to talk, saying he would never give a statement to anyone. When he did start talking, he said the last time he saw John DiTrapani was 16 months ago in Chicago with Terry Gigstead. They had several drinks together. Mulea had known DiTrapani’s wife since school days, and would call on John when he (Mulea) was in Milwaukee. Mulea said he now lived on Orchard Street with his sister and helped his brother out with his real estate business. He did not know John DiTrapani had been killed until he was arrested, and would have attended the funeral if he had known. Schalla wrote in his report that while he did not think Mulea was connected to DiTrapani, he must be involved “in some racket and has a means of income unbeknown to us. He is well dressed to the degree where his fingernails indicate a recent manicure.”
Detectives Franz Belot and Rudolf Schneider interviewed Steve Halmo, proprietor of Halmo’s Lab, on April 7, 1954. Halmo told them that at the end of November, a bartender friend of his called him three times and told him that he could get whiskey for $25 a case from a man named McCarthy. Halmo was curious and went to talk to McCarthy, asking him if the deal was true. They spoke in the presence of a cab driver named Jack and a dark-haired man named Jim. Jack told Halmo that if he went to Lou Chambers’ tavern, he could buy whiskey for $16 per case. They met up there, and Halmo was informed that he whiskey was “hot” and he could buy one or two car loads for cash. After telling his story, Halmo went to the police station and picked out a photograph of John Earl “Jack” Norgel, 44, as the cab driver.
Detectives looked into the tax records of Alice Polinski Eastley at the Wisconsin Assessor of Income Tax Office on April 7, 1954. They found that she had been called in for failing to file a tax return in 1947. As far as they could tell, she still owed the government $208. Why they checked is unclear, but their results were turned over to the State Auditing Department.
SFC Joseph F. Szabados, stationed in Fuerth, northern Bavaria, was questioned on April 7 by military investigator John L. Baker regarding the possibility that he gave or sold a .45 to John DiTrapani. Szabados said he had met John DiTrapani in 1946 when he was stationed in Milwaukee, and did part-time work for him from 1946 to 1950 at Johnny’s Roundup. He was aware of DiTrapani owning a .38, but did not know he owned a .45 and did not receive one from Szabados.
District Special Agent T. E. Mulvaney of the C&NW Railroad came in to the Detective Bureau at 2:00pm on Wednesday, April 7, 1954. Mulvaney said that two or three days prior to the DiTrapani murder, an Emery “bull dog” truck hauled a large two-wheel trailer to a point under the Bluemound viaduct near the Northwestern railroad tracks (115th Street or Potter Road near the Milwaukee County line). The trailer was unhitched and left parked there for a few days. Railroad foremen Stanley Roszak and John Glynn (who lived on Potter Road) also saw the parked trailer. Mulvaney said that several other two-wheel trailers have been seen parked at this location over the last two years. The trailer would always be parked at night and be gone in the morning. Mulvaney did not know if this meant anything, but he reported it for what it was worth. Detective Fred Timm called the H&O Cartage Company and learned that the Emery transportation Company was the second largest in the country, but they had no docks in Milwaukee.
Detectives interviewed Alois Dettlaff, 3849 East Cudahy Avenue, on April 7, 1954. He said he had been married in June 1947 and for several years had suspected his wife of cheating on him. They separated in May 1953 and in July 1953 found that Everett LaVerne Hoyle had been associating with his wife. Since then, he had been following his wife around trying to catch her “in some immoral act”. He was arrested in September 1953 for trying to get inside her home, but was released. He was arrested again in October 1953 with Ralph Schmidt and a 17-year old girl, “the latter was trying to get information on lewd acts of their wives.” Dettlaff went to the Detective Bureau with a box of scribbled notes and a tape recorder that he claimed had a threat on it. No threat was found. He took the same items to the district attorney and the Cudahy Police Department. He claims the wife is pregnant with Hoyle’s kid and that their other two children are not his (Dettlaff’s) either. He claimed that Hoyle had a .45 and a hand grenade in his car, but never saw it personally. Based on all this, the police did not find Dettlaff’s suggestion of Hoyle as a murder suspect credible.
[Postscript: In July 2005, police found 84-year-old Alois Dettlaff lying in the living room of his home. They said he had been dead for about a month. Dettlaff owned the only known copy of Thomas Edison's 1910 version of the movie "Frankenstein." Experts consider this the first horror film ever made.]
Police interviewed Dale Lilley, 35, 1321 North Cherry Street, and his wife Audrey Papas Lilley on April 8, 1954. Dale was a brother to Warren Lilley and Marian Lilley Gigstead. He said that he knew very little of John DiTrapani and had not patronized his palce of business. He furthermore did not know about his sister’s activities and had “no ill feeling” towards DiTrapani. Dale Lilley never owned a gun and did not serve i nthe armed forces, as he was not qualigfied to do so because of his nervous condition.
Lieutenant Joseph Schalla received a phone call on April 8, 1954 from former police officer Viola Clauder. Clauder told Schalla that in autumn 1948, she was returning Violet Esther Becker (nee Nowinski) home from the State Reform School for Women at Aurora, Illinois prison. Becker told Clauder that she was formerly John DiTrapani’s girlfriend and would get even with him for throwing her out. Becker had allegedly been kept in beautiful clothes and a nice apartment. They broke up when DiTrapani grew sick of her pressuring him to get a divorce. Becker had formerly been married to a Walter Becker, but they divorced at Wausau on May 13, 1936. Their son, Robert Becker, was being raised by her parents, Michael Nowinski and Martha Oliski Nowinski of Schofield. Violet Becker had a history of forgery, once passing $150 of worthless checks in Milwaukee while claiming to be the daughter of a Wausau paper company official.
Sergeant George J. Pelzman interviewed Robert Ervin Fanello, 40, 1552 South 35th Street, on April 9, 1954. Fanello said he worked as a musician in Johnny’s Roundup 8 or 9 years ago, but has only seen DiTrapani occasionally since then and had never been to Chicago with him. He now worked for A. O. Smith and Company, and had been working in Cuba from February 21 to April 6 this year.
Pelzman spoke with Jacobus Kruyne, the President of the Home Savings Bank, and had him check activity in John DiTrapani’s business account on April 9. There was one $20,000 check written to cash on February 2, which Kruyne said was not unusual. DiTrapani would often get large amounts of cash so people could come to his tavern and cash their payroll checks. He would then deposit the checks into his account. No unusual activity was found, and DiTrapani’s personal account (a joint account with his wife) never went much above or below $1200.
Pelzman spoke with Rosario Joseph Gagliano, 49, 4725 North 19th Place, on April 9. Gagliano confirmed that he had gone to Denver in September with DiTrapani and Jerry O’Rourke to check oil wells belonging to O’Rourke. He said they stayed in Denver for two days and then flew to Las Vegas, where they met up with DiTrapani’s daughter. DiTrapani, his daughter and O’Rourke flew to Milwaukee, but Gagliano stayed on a few days before returning to Milwaukee (presumably to visit his brother). Gagliano said he had been close to DiTrapani ten years ago, but their friendship had dwindled. When shown various photographs of Chicago men, Gagliano picked out only one man — Paul Labriola, recently found dead in a trunk — as someone he recognized, having seen him in several taverns in Milwaukee near 5th and Wells the previous year.
Also interviewed on April 9 was Gerald J. O’Rourke, 46.
On April 9, at 6:00pm, officers arrested Fred Michael Colburn, 2611 South Austin Street, at the corner of Water and State for being “plain drunk”. Colburn mentioned John DiTrapani’s name several times while being arrested and claimed that at one time he was swindled out of $4000 by DiTrapani. Colburn said there were “things” and “facts” about DiTrapani that he (Colburn) would never tell the police. Colburn was brought in to the station, and told the officers that he had been an associate of DiTrapani’s “before the war” through his uncle, George Michaels. He and Michaels stopped associating with DiTrapani in 1940 when they leaned that DiTrapani had received a load of hijacked whiskey from Kenosha. The drivers of the hijacked truck were his bartenders, Tony and Woody. These two men roomed at the corner of 36th and Wisconsin in a house owned by Michaels’ sister, Elizabeth Bennett of Green Bay.
Albert Zirgibel, 42, called the police at 9:45pm on April 10 to report that he had heard about hijacked whiskey being stored in a garage. This information came from Chester Monroe, 56, who had one leg and a chest injury. Zirgibel said there was a bartender named Dick who worked at the Metropolitan Club that owed Monroe “a large sum of money” but was serving time in prison for violating the Mann Act. When Monroe was questioned, he said he never made any remarks about illicit liquor, though he did acknowledge frequenting the Metropolitan Club. Monroe also confirmed that he would lend Dick money from time to time, but only small amounts and he was not currently owed anything.
Police questioned Sam DaQuisto, 38, 5075 South 27th Street, on April 10, 1954. DaQuisto said he did not know John DiTrapani, never met the man and did not know why anyone would kill him.
Robert White, 48, was interviewed by Officer Joseph Jender on April 12, 1954 regarding information received that White had seen John DiTrapani give an unknown man a $20,000 check for a whiskey transaction. White denied ever seeing any such thing, and said he was in the tavern three or four times a week. The only thing close to the alleged incident happened in November, when DiTrapani was carrying a package and White jokingly asked if it was his laundry. White was asked to hold the bag and John then said, “I bet that this is the first time you ever had $20,000 in your hands.” DiTrapani then took the bag back and gave it to his bookkeeper.
John Alioto, 64, was questioned by Lt. Joseph Schalla at the Safety Building on April 13 at 11:16am. He said he had spent five months in the house of correction for some illegal dealing involving the sale of his saloon to Ben DiSalvo. He denied ever being arrested otherwise or ever being in New York, both of which were false. He denied killing John DiTrapani, saying he could not kill a fly and was in bed by 4 in the afternoon. He denied being affiliated with the Mafia and stressed that he collected money for Catholic charities and had worked for the Red Cross and Holy Name Society. He denied ever being to Chicago or Cleveland, but said he had been in Hot Springs, Arkansas the previous month and went fishing in Eagle River with Joseph Balistrieri in 1953.
Sergeant George Williams tried three times on the evening of Tuesday, April 13, to contact Anthony Machi, 32, 3415 North Humboldt, the owner of the Green Bay and Port Washington Tavern (3418 North Green Bay Road). He was only able to reach Leonard Machi, 22, Anthony’s brother and bartender. Leonard was told to have Anthony call Sergeant Pelzman. Almost two weeks later, Anthony spoke with Detective Sorgi and said he had known John DiTrapani for fifteen years but did not know who killed him, nor did he know anything of his personal business.
Detective Tobias Golembrewski contacted Sam Valona at 10:00am on Wednesday, April 14, and told him to show up at the Detective Bureau on April 18 at 9:30am for a lie detector test and to be photographed.
Police detectives brought John “Blackie” Sullivan to the Safety Building on Wednesday, April 14, 1954 to question him a second time about the DiTrapani murder. Through his attorney, John Craite, Sullivan offered to take a lie detector test for Acting Captain Rudolph Glaser, but requested the police stop harassing him, as it was interfering with his job. Craite said if the police continued to detain Sullivan without intent to arrest him, he would file a restraining order against the police.
Michael Albano, 36, 4144 North 17th, was questioned by Sergeant George Pelzman in the Safety Building on April 14 at 3:17pm. He was employed as a maintenance man for the New Yorker tavern on Third. The New Yorker was owned by Frank Scaler, Michael’s wife Virginia Greco Albano and his recently deceased brother Tom Albano. Albano said he had known DiTrapani about 15 years and was on friendly terms with him. Mike Albano denied being with Frank LaGalbo and Frank DeNicola at a restaurant the morning of the murder, and said he had not even seen DeNicola in four or five years. Albano said he did not go to Chicago often, but occasionally would go for weddings and funerals, as his mother’s family is from there. Albano denied being in the Mafia or knowing anyone who was, saying “that stuff went around years ago… we heard our parents talk about that.” He further denied hearing that John Alioto was the head of the Mafia. Albano said he (Albano) had been in Hot Springs, Arkansas about two weeks prior. After being shown various photos of Chicago hoodlums, Albano identified Felix Alderisio as the man who owned a bar-b-que restaurant.
Carlos DiMaggio, 64, 1536 North Franklin, went to the Detective Bureau for questioning on April 14 at 3:25pm. He said that on St. Patrick’s Day, he was working with his son Sam at the LaTosca at 631 East Clybourn until five or six in the morning — he said “the place was jammed with Irish people”. DiMaggio also mentioned that an off-duty police officer, Tony Consiglio, was there that evening. In the morning, DiMaggio and Santos Corrae (Santo Curro?) went outside and found that DiTrapani had been shot. DiMaggio said he had known DiTrapani since he was a baby when he would come into the butcher shop with his uncle for some sausage. Shortly before DiTrapani’s death, DiMaggio had borrowed $175 to pay medical expenses — his son had a heart operation and Carlos had a rib and part of his lung removed. The police asked DiMaggio if he knew about a Black Hand organization or Mafia that operated in the First and Third Wards, but he denied knowing anything. He said he was not a member and did not know if anyone else was. They specifically asked him about John DiTrapani, Frank LaGalbo, August Maniaci, John Alioto and Sam Ferrara, but DiMaggio said he knew nothing. DiMaggio said he had met Blackie Sullivan once in 1947, when he (DiMaggio) operated the Show Boat and he was introduced by his booking agent, Curley. Sullivan came in every night when the Solomon Girls were performing.
Detective Herman Sorgi was in Chicago on April 14, and was assisted by Sergeant Hurley in checking on long distance telephone calls made by DiTrapani to Chicago. One unlisted number, CO-18555, traced to Felix Alderisio, a well-known Chicago hoodlum who owned a tavern with Albert Frabotta. These two were said to be “trigger men” and Alderisio was said to have bought a percentage of a big gambling house in Las Vegas. The Chicago police were currently looking for him for questioning concerning a double murder that occurred April 11.
Sorgi interviewed Peter “Little Pete” Gargano, 1218 Argone Drive in North Chicago at 9:00pm on April 14, 1954. Gargano was married with three children and was the proprietor of Lake County Music Company at 1805 Sheridan in North Chicago. He also owned three North Chicago taverns. Gargano told Sorgi that he saw John DiTrapani last summer with a brunette girlfriend and they had drinks. He said that he had met DiTrapani about two years ago at Jack Enea’s tavern, 1932 West St. Paul Avenue in Milwaukee. Beyond that, Gargano had little to offer, knowing nothing of DiTrapani’s business or personal life.
Alois Dettlaff called the police department at 8:45pm on April 15, saying that he heard Detective Wissing was looking for an Everett Hoyle to question concerning the DiTrapani murder. Dettlaff said his wife Helen, 28, was in the Columbia Hospital and just gave birth to a baby boy the day before, and the child was Hoyle’s. He told police if they wanted him, they could stop by the hospital and he would probably show up. The police, however, had no record of Hoyle being wanted and believed that Dettlaff was just using the DiTrapani case as an excuse to get Hoyle in jail. (Helen Dettlaff left the hospital on the 18th, though it is unknown if the police bothered to question Hoyle.)
Officer Joseph Jender interviewed Jean Stuart, 27, on April 15. A citizen had reported two weeks earlier that she had met with two Italians from Chicago at Volpano’s in the beginning of March. She said she had never been in Volpano’s Tavern (2483 West Capitol) with any Italians from Chicago and had not been in the tavern since November 1953. She did not know John DiTrapani personally, other than having been a waitress at the Club Midnight when he was there. She was now employed at Como’s. Jender later questioned Louis Migliaccio, the proprietor of Como’s, and confirmed that she was at the tavern on the night of the murder and did not know her to associate with any Italians.
Following up on a tip from one of Patrolman John Hammes’ informer, police interviewed Salvatore Farina, 23, 4322 North 55th Street on April 15. Farina was married with a 2-year old child, and currently living with his in-laws until his father-in-law, a building contractor, completed his home at 4503 North 64th Street. Farina was working part-time as a switchman for the Milwaukee Railroad, and he was driving a car he got from his brother Joseph, who operated a used car lot. Farina denied even knowing DiTrapani. Joseph Farina, 30, was contacted and he also denied knowing DiTrapani.
Detective Herman Sorgi interviewed Pasquale Costa, 67, 3758 North Paulina Street in Chicago, at 9:00pm on April 15, 1954. Costa was the father of Angeline DiTrapani and was an elevator operator for the Sears Roebuck Company. Costa said he visited his daughter once every three months, thought of DiTrapani as “a nice boy” and like his own son. Despite being aware that DiTrapani associated with other women, he “absolutely” had no animosity towards the deceased.
Jack Enea, 44, 1506 North Jackson, was questioned by Lt. Schalla in his office on April 17 at 8:45am. Jack said during the murder he was working at his tavern at 1932 St. Paul Avenue, and when it closed at 1:50am he met his son at the Melody Room on Wells and then went across the street to the Belmont Hotel to get something to eat. After that, he helped his guests from St. Paul home. Jack denied killing DiTrapani or knowing who did. He admitted knowing Peter “Little Pete” Gargano of North Chicago all his life, ever since they were kids. Gargano had visited Jack’s tavern “about two hundred times”. Jack said his nephew was married to Gargano’s daughter. He further denied being affiliated with the Mafia or knowing anyone who was a member.
Sam Costa, alias James Salvatore Valona, arrived at the Detective Bureau for questioning in the DiTrapani murder at 9:30am on April 18, initially booked on suspicion of murder, but was released without charge. Costa had previously done time in Pontiac Prison (Illinois) for attempted larceny. Valona took a lie detector test and made a statement.
Officers Polsen and Surges were dispatched to 2768 North 23rd Street on April 18 at 10:15pm to interview Bernard Vis, 40, a part-time bartender at Johnny’s Round-Up. Vis said that he had known Johnny since “the old days”, around 1928, when they would both haul hot whiskey out of the state. Vis was only involved for about 9 months and then left for the Marines. (The police wrote down that “due to the ages of Bernard and Johnny, they would be very young to be dealing in the driving of this so-called hot whiskey.” Indeed, in 1928 both men would have been 14.) Bernard said on April 3, as he was dropping his mother off at the train station near 4th and Michigan, he was pushed into the back seat of a car by four Italians from behind. Two of the men got in the front seat, drove off and began asking him if he knew who killed Johnny. When he said he knew nothing, they beat him up and hit him in the back with a baseball bat for about an hour. They then brought him back to his car, where he was forced inside and driven to his home and then told to keep his mouth shut. One of the men had the nose of a fighter. Bernard told the police that Johnny was in a “shake down racket” operating between Kenosha and Chicago, and they would have girls take photos with married men to blackmail them. Police noted in their report that Vis had been drinking and “this complaint seems doubtful”.
The Chatterbox Tavern (1014 South 16th Street) was checked on April 19, 1954 by Arthur G. Kotchian, Stevens and Johnson of the Wisconsin State Tax Division for liquor violations. None were found.
The police received information on April 19, 1954 from an anonymous individual that John DiTrapani was “not an honorable individual as far as the syndicate was concerned”. The source, allegedly part of a syndicate from another city, said that DiTrapani was involved in hijacked liquor, moonshine liquor and counterfeit money and an out-of-town man was sent in to kill him because he would not cut anyone else in on the profits. The moonshine was allegedly going to Las Vegas “by the thousands of gallons”. The source said he knew Felix Alderisio and suspected he might have been involved, as Alderisio and DiTrapani were in Las Vegas at the same time. The source further named August Chiaverotti as a former bodyguard for Louis Simon and Joe Krasno, but was now “connected with” the Milwaukee syndicate.
Detective Tobias Golembrewski interviewed Liborio “Bobby” Zaffiro, 30, the operator of the B&J Tavern (532 East Buffalo Street, also known as the Rock-a-bye Tap) at 3:00pm on April 20, 1954. Zaffiro said he had only met DiTrapani once at an Italian wedding and knew nothing of his personal life or hijacked whiskey. Zaffiro denied owning or displaying any type of gun. Zaffiro was married to Rose Seidita, the sister of mob member Salvatore Seidita. (Two years later, he opened Zaffiro’s Pizza at 1724 North Farwell Avenue, which still exists as of 2012.)
Milwaukee Police reviewed the tax filings of the Taystee Bar-B-Q, Robert Bundy, Molly Alderisio and their employees on April 20, 1954. They made no note of an irregularities.
Patrolman John Hammes received word from an informant on April 21, 1954 that a man named “Gus Cappas” or “Kappas” from Chicago occasionally visited Milwaukee and was an intimate friend of August Maniaci. The man was apparently a “big time” hood and gambler, who gambles heavily in Las Vegas and was involved in “highly profitable undertakings of various illegal deals”. Lt. Joseph Morris of the Special Assignment Unit did a lookup on a “Gus Cappas” or “Kappas”. Nothing was found, but Morris suggested they might be looking for Gus Zapas, whom he described as “a small time hood and burglar”.
Frank Ranney purchased the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek from James C. and Lou J. Langemak on April 23, 1954. Ranney paid the couple $18, 150 for the resort. (The White Gull Inn at 4225 Main Street, Fish Creek has been a resort since 1896 and still is today.)
Sergeant George J. Pelzman spoke with an informant on April 23, 1954. They said that prior to 1947, DiTrapani had “chummed around with” a girl named Mary Materna, and in 1947 Materna “was intimate with” liquor salesman Babe Shaw. The informant said that these three, along with Terry Gigstead ,would make numerous trips to Chicago and Minneapolis, and would meet at the cocktail lounge at the Shroeder Hotel. The informant believed that Materna used to be a model for the Boston Store, and was married to an Italian in the trucking business. Allegedly, Materna’s husband did not mind her “chasing around with” Johnny and Babe because she had leukemia and only a short time to live. Taverns frequented by these people included Denny Holland’s, Roxy’s, Sailor Ann’s and the LaTosca Cafe. Babe Shaw was allegedly at Johnny’s funeral “and showed strong signs of hysterics”. (Typically, informants are referred to as “he”, but Pelzman uses only the term “informant” without being gender-specific. He is either keeping the source very anonymous or is hiding the fact that this was a rare female source.)
On April 23, 1954, at 11:20pm, the pay phone rang at Johnny’s Super Bar, and manager Fred Kezele answered it. The low, even voice said, “You’re gonna get the same as Johnny got.” Kezele, who did not recognize the voice, reported the call to the police. They checked out the premises and offered to escort him to and from work for the next few days.
Anthony DePalma was questioned by Officer Joseph Jender on April 25 regarding a “Tony” or “Woody” that was employed by John DiTrapani in 1939 or 1940. DePalma said he would not know, as he (DePalma) worked for a Vince Cavro at that point. He knew of no bartenders by those names, or any having lived at the corner of 36th and Wisconsin, to his knowledge.
Pat Lusk, of the Chicago Sun Times, called the Milwaukee Police Department at 11:45pm on April 25, 1954 to try and verify that officers had gone to Chicago to interview James Adduci. Adduci was big news, having been a former senator and having been indicted for receiving illegal commissions from state contracts. Sergeant Andrew F. Anewenter told Lusk that he was not authorized to verify the information, and would have to talk to Captain Glaser, who would be back at 8:00am. Lusk tried to get Glaser’s home phone number from Anewenter, but was told this would be against procedure. Although Lusk persisted, saying that other newspapers had already got the scoop, he was not successful in getting anywhere.
The police called Mrs. Catherine Mineo on Monday, April 26, 1954. She informed them that her husband Michele worked at Schlitz Brewery weekdays from 8:00am to 4:00pm and returned home at 4:30pm daily. A message was then sent to the detectives to contact Mineo in person and order him to be at the Detective Bureau 9:00am on Saturday. They contacted him the same day at 5:45pm, and also contacted Sam Costa and told him to report in Saturday at 10:00am.
Detective Herman Sorgi interviewed tavern owner Arthur McCarthy, 46, 777 North Jackson, on April 27 and McCarthy told him that in November, a man came into his tavern and offered to sell him 800 cases of assorted whiskey with Wisconsin tax stamps for $15 per case. McCarthy said he could use a few cases but not 800, so the man left. McCarthy recalled the man being named Jack and coming from a Chicago suburb. (When shown photos, he was unable to find the man in question, but said he looked something like James Weinberg, who was murdered in Chicago in February.)
Detectives interviewed Harry Morton, operator of H. A. Morton Liquor Company, on Wednesday, April 28 at 9:45am. Morton said he believed that the “Mike” detectives were looking for was probably Meyer “Babe” Shaw, a former liquor salesman who was a partner with Hy Alpert in 1947. Morton said these two men, along with John diTrapani, would hang around the Schroeder Hotel Coffee Shop and Cocktail Lounge and would occasionally go to the horse racing track in Chicago. (Morton was a director of the Wisconsin Wine and Spirits Institute in 1958.)
Police Technician Bert L. Banholzer submitted a report on April 28, 1954 after giving the DiTrapani murder case “considerable consideration” that he believed could offer a motive or even a solution to the crime. Banholzer’s ambitious plan was to check every purchase made by Johnny’s taverns in the last five years in order to determine which illicit brands were being sold there. He hoped to check all purchase and sales receipts, and see if they matched up. He wrote an example: “Suppose that his purchases of Brand X for a monthly average for the past five years was 100 cases. During the month of June 1953 his purchases were only 10 cases of Brand X and his sales averages were normal.” If this were found, fraud could easily be determined. While Banholzer’s idea was not a bad one, and he was clearly eager to help, there is no evidence that the police followed up on it and I suspect they found it too huge an undertaking for the little reward it was likely to bring.
LaRosa and Guarniere were scheduled to testify before a Federal Grand Jury on April 30, 1954 regarding their meat heist but both refused. A hearing was scheduled for May 7 to see if they were in contempt.
Sergeant George J. Pelzman received information from a confidential source on April 30 “that the murder of John DiTrapani definitely is linked with the activity and the participants of the hi-jacking of a load of meat during the month of July 1952″. How these two crimes were connected was not clear.
Lt. Madden of the Green Bay Police Department called Sgt. George Williams on April 30 at 4:55pm. Madden said that he had found Elizabeth Bennett and that she had, in fact, owned the rooming house she was said to have owned, but the records were now kept in Marinette. Bennett was now a house mother at St. Norbert’s College and would be only free on weekends. Williams called Lt. Donovan of the Green Bay Police Department on April 30 at 5:32pm, and asked him to relay a message to Lt. Madden. He wanted Elizabeth Bennett contacted and asked if she had any record of a “Tony” or “Woody”. Bennett made a list of all her boarders (over 45 of them), but none were named Tony or Woody. She suggested Don Alloy, who had been a bartender for John DiTrapani. Alloy had a brother who lived in Lannon (Waukesha County) and a father who was killed in an accident in front of Sam Pick’s on Bluemound Road.
In his book, Bound By Honor, Bill Bonanno recalls being inducted as a made member of the Bonanno Family in the Spring of 1954, in a large warehouse in Brooklyn. Along with Joe Profaci, Tommy Lucchese, Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia, he says there were also “several other bosses from Buffalo, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Philadelphia.” After the ceremony, they went across the street to the Enchanted Hour, an Italian restaurant. If this is true, who was the Milwaukee boss present? Presumably John Alioto, but we will probably never know. (According to Jerry Capeci, it is extremely unlikely that non-Bonanno Family members would be at Bill’s initiation.)
Detective Herman Sorgi interview Michele Mineo, 56, 2700 North 45th Street, on May 1 or 2, 1954. Mineo said that he had known John DiTrapani for about twenty years, was a good friend, but never went out with him socially. Beyond purchasing DiTrapani’s home, he never had any business dealings with the deceased. Mineo made the statement that “he (Mineo) does not belong to the Mafia, he never belonged to the Mafia and doesn’t know what the Mafia is.”
Officer Joseph Jender spoke with Mary Miller Materna, 34, on May 3. Materna said that she was friends with Marian Lilley Gigstead and knew John DiTrapani a little bit through her. Materna had first met DiTrapani by accident when she was at the Schroeder Hotel Cocktail Lounge with her friend Patricia London during World War II, and DiTrapani would buy them a drink or two. Materna had also met Babe Shaw but did not know him well. Re-interviewed a week later and Materna told the same story, but added that people might have her confused with a Mary McCalky, whom DiTrapani dated for ten years and was very possessive of, not even allowing her to go out with her female friends.
Crawford County District Attorney Elmer D. Queram wrote a letter to Captain Rudolph Glaser on May 5, 1954. Queram said that he had spoken with Charles Kezele multiple times in relation to the DiTrapani case, as Queram knew that Kezele’s brother was Johnny’s partner. Queram said he had “personal knowledge” that on the night of the murder, Charles Kezele was bowling at the Pladium Bowling Alley with Richard Fernette and then spent the night at Fernette’s house. At the time, both men were doing contracting work for the Waupun post office but had since moved on to work at Baraboo. Queram said that Kezele believed that one of DiTrapani’s pistols had been purchased by him (Kezele) at a local hardware store, but he had nothing to do with the murder.
Officer Joseph Jender interviewed Santo Curro, 45, 2704 North Newhall, on May 8, 1954. Curro said on the night of murder, he did not arrive at the LaTosca until around 3:00am, and the restaurant was still packed with customers. He said that after 45 minutes, a man came in and announced that police had found a man shot in his car. At first, patrolmen blocked Curro from the scene, but then Captain Schmidt asked him to identify the body.
Lt. Schalla and Detective Sorgi went to Chicago at 6:00am on Wednesday, May 12, 1954 to see Lt. Morris at Scotland Yard. Morris had nothing to say about Arthur Elrod. He said David Yaras handling a casino at the Hotel Nationale in Cuba. Leonard Patrick and William Block were both believed to be in Las Vegas. Morris said that Virgil Peterson, the director of the Chicago Crime Commission, could give them more information. They met up with Peterson, and asked him about Felix Alderisio and Albert Frabotta. He said they were both killers and could well be responsible for John DiTrapani’s murder. Both men had been in Las Vegas for a gambling interest for the syndicate, and they were now trying to control ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) in order to contro lthe booking of entertainment at night clubs, theaters and on television. Several singers were known to have been “black balled” when they did not cooperate with the pair and had their bookings canceled in New York. Peterson said Frabotta and Alderisio were trigger men for Marshall Caifano, who was a partner with Tony Accardo. Also of interest was one John Ambrosia, who used the Ambrosia Chicken Store to cover up his illegal dealings.
Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio, 42, 4736 West Adams, Chicago, was brought in to the Safety Building on May 19, 1954 at 10:05am and interrogated by Captain Rudolph Glaser. Also present was Sgt. George Pelzman. Alderisio said he was born in Yonkers and moved to Chicago at age 2, dropped out of school in 7th grade and married his wife Molly Prapopke in Miami Beach in 1937. They started their barbecue business (Tasty Bar-B-Q) at 725 North 5th in 1939, and Alderisio went to the Army in 1941. The business was then transferred under Molly’s name and also Bob Bundy — Phil had no legal interest, and said his only source of income was from his wife. Alderisio said he had met John DiTrapani through Bundy in roughly 1946, but had no business with him and never went anywhere socially. He said he had met Frank LaGalbo through Bundy, because LaGalbo would stop in to the barbecue to ask about sauces, chicken and ribs. He further said he had met Mike Albano through his deceased brother Tommy. Alderisio denied ever getting a phone call from DiTrapani or from one of his taverns, and he denied knowing Leonard Patrick, William Block, Danny Yaras, Harry Cutler or Senator Adduci. He said he had heard of Blackie Sullivan from the newspapers, but had never met the man. Alderisio denied having an interest in any Las Vegas gambling establishments, but did say he would occasionally bet on horses. He admitted being arrested in 1933 in Wheaton, Illinois for “trying to fill some drums of mash”. And on December 7, 1935 he was arrested in a garage in Chicago for an alcohol charge, but he said it was an unfair arrest because the alcohol was in another guy’s car and he was just working in the garage at the time.
Around June 1954, Sam Giancana’s wife died. John Alioto attended the funeral.
Detective Herman Sorgi went to Chicago with Jack Norgel on June 2, 1954, so that Norgel could show him the nightclub that he went to with Frank DiTrapani on two occasions. At 9:00am they reached the club: Frolics at 4813 West Cermak Road (in Cicero). The club had been raided three days prior for having slot machines. Conferring with Lieutenant Maurice, Sorgi found the owner of the club to be Joseph Aiuppa (alias Joey O’Brien) and the manger to be Felix Bocchiccio. Aiuppa would later become the head of the Chicago Outfit and Bocchiccio would become known as a fight fixer. Mr. Peterson of the Chicago Crime Commission told Sorgi that Aiuppa’s business associates were mobster Claude Maddox, Joseph Corngold and Willie Henney. According to the Kefauver Report of May 1, 1951, “In 1948, Joseph Corngold and Willie Heeney, members of the Cicero contingent of the Capone mob, grossed $51,000 on the handbook operation of the El Patio Club in Cicero.” Peterson also said these four men owned the Taylor Manufacturing Company, which distributed gambling equipment and chips throughout the country.
Detective Tobias Golembrewski interviewed Arnold William Putnam, 38, on June 6, 1954. Putnam had a record of carrying a concealed weapon and had served ten years in prison for a murder he committed in Janesville in 1939. Putnam was known to hang around the Coal Hollow Tavern and associated with James Deppoleto, Dale Henry, Bert Harris and Jerome DiMaggio. Putnam said he knew John DiTrapani, but only well enough to say hello and had nothing further to offer. (Putnam and Harris would soon get arrested for robbing and kidnapping the manager of a Kohl’s grocery store.)
Detective Herman Sorgi went to Waukesha on Tuesday, June 15, 1954 and interviewed Edward Olson, 34, a truck driver for the Royal Transit Company. Olson said that in 1943 he worked for the Armand Trucking Company in Chicago, driving a milk tanker. The owner of Armand was John Lewis, a leading politician in that ward. The manager of the company was “Little Ned” Bakes. On several occasions, he was propositioned to tank the tanker to Kentucky and Ohio to get a load of whiskey. Olson turned down the offer. Olson was shown several photos by Sorgi, and he correctly identified Ned Bakes. He also picked out Albert Frabotta, whom he said would hang around the garage and was known as “Bushels”. On one occasion, the two allegedly went out to pick Olson up after his truck broke down and beat him up for no reason. Since his employment, Armand had been bought out by Quality Milk Service.
Joseph Guarniere reported his life threatened on June 29, 1954.
John Triliegi was released from Nevada State Prison on July 30, 1954 by the Parole Board. He had served less than two years.
While driving through Fort Wayne, Indiana on Saturday, July 31, 1954, the Vito Seidita family was involved in a head-on car accident and Vito’s son Baldassare, 21, an employee of the Milwaukee Cheese Company, was killed. Salvatore Seidita, 19, had a fractured pelvis and cuts on his head. Mrs. Frances Seidita, 46, had a head injury and internal injuries. Mrs. Santa Spano, 23, Vito’s daughter, had cuts and bruises. Mrs. Providenza Albano, 57, Baldassare’s aunt, was suffering from shock. Rosemary Spano, 3, was unhurt. The family was on their way to Pittsburgh to attend the funeral of Maria Taromina, Frances’ sister.
Americo DePietto was sentenced to ten years in Waupun State Prison (where he became inmate number 34313) on August 17, 1954 because of the Zerk burglary. While in prison, he met and befriended Milwaukee hoodlum Louis Fazio. DePietto also married a Chicago waitress while in the prison on January 18, 1956.
Carlo Joseph Marchese was called in to the police station during an investigation on September 30, 1954. What he was asked about is unclear, but he was not charged.
On October 1, 1954, Frank LaGalbo bought a cottage on the Right of Way Road one half-mile northeast of Peshtigo in Marinette County. After a few modifications, the cottage was guarded by large dogs, flood lights, a bodyguard and electrified wire. The neighbors were upset by the flood lights being on all night, every night.
Federal Judge Robert E. Tehan heard an appeal from Francis Stelloh, 41, on Monday, October 4, 1954 for release from the state prison at Waupun.
Frank and Paul LaGalbo purchased a house on Right of Way Road in Peshtigo from Adolph G. and Josephine Thompson through real estate agent Roy Rabe on October 1, 1954. Frank, through attorney Dominic Frinzi, bought out Paul’s half five years later. He used this as a summer cottage.
Marshall Caifano and Felix Alderisio (using the alias Phil Milno of Milwaukee) stayed at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills from December 8th through the 10th, 1954.
On Tuesday, December 28, 1954, officers arrested Cono Librizzi, 39, for obtaining $24.50 worth of concrete under false pretenses. His brother Sam, 35, and mother Josephine, 62, were arrested for disorderly conduct and obstructing justice for trying to stop officers from arresting Cono.
At some point in 1955, Frank LaGalbo was ordered to be killed for an unknown reason. LaGalbo found out and called his friend, Chicago Heights capo Frank LaPorte. LaPorte “lawyered” for LaGalbo and spared his life. From this point forward, LaGalbo was considered part of the Chicago Heights Family despite rarely leaving Milwaukee. (FBI agents later asked around Chicago Heights and Calumet City and found no indication that anyone there even knew who LaGalbo was.)
John Rizzo registered as “J. LaMont of 816 22nd Street, Kenosha” when staying at the Plaza Hotel in Milwaukee on January 11, 1955. A blonde woman was seen going to his room. He was figured out when police traced his car to Tony Rizzo, his brother.
Counterfeiter Sam Vermiglio and Detroit attorney Henry P. Onrich borrowed $31,000 from Orlando P. Colamatteo on February 21, 1955 in Chicago. Colamatteo was said to be close to certain Chicago gangsters (including Louis Campagna) and was a “tax wizard”. Colamatteo then gave the promissory notes to the Home Savings Bank of Milwaukee, who had great difficulty collecting.
Joseph Guarniere was arrested for contributing to a minor on March 17, 1955.
Fazio’s Italian restaurant, 1601 North Jackson, was bombed early on Wednesday, June 1, 1955. There were at least two blasts, blowing two holes in a north basement wall and damaging cars parked nearby. The restaurant’s windows were blown out, as were the windows at the Fazio residence (1609 North Jackson), windows at residences at 524 and 526 Pleasant Street and five other homes on Jackson. John Bruno, 20, of 526 East Pleasant was injured by broken glass that fell into his bed. The bombers were unknown, but the result was a holdup in granting the Fazio family another license to open their new restaurant at 634 North 5th (formerly the Tic Toc Supper Club). Information received by the FBI contended that either Frank Balistrieri or Phil Valley had ordered the bombing and that it was carried out by a hanger-on of the hoodlum element. (Although another informant said it was Balistrieri’s revenge for not being able to buy the Tic Toc and it was carried out by a man from Chicago who was in town to offer a washroom cleaning service.)
Joseph Guarniere was arrested for confidence game and violation of parole on July 6, 1955.
On July 13, 1955, while accompanying her husband, Assemblyman Mark Catlin, Mrs. Catlin spoke with Governor Kohler about the Louis Fazio case. Kohler said to her, “I don’t see how I can do anything in the Fazio matter in view of the incidents that have happened.”
Joseph Guarniere was arrested for forceable rape on July 28, 1955. (At some unknown time, he also threatened to kill his wife, Geneva, in Little Anistor, Alabama.)
Carmen Vaccaro, daughter of Pasquale Migliaccio, separated from her husband Dr. Joseph E. Vaccaro on August 30, 1955 and filed for divorce, claiming that he was having an affair with Mrs. Joyce Etzel. Vaccaro denied any affair, and sued his wife, her father and Etzel for $100,000 claiming they were trying to extort money from him. During the divorce proceedings, Vaccaro tried to patch things up with his father-in-law. When he extended his hand for a handshake in the court hallway, Migliaccio swung and hit Vaccaro in the jaw. Ultimately, Carmen Vaccaro was granted the house, a car and $569 per month in alimony.
Lt. Adrian Mershon interviewed Avis Trapp Montes, 26, on Monday, September 12, 1955. She was originally from Oshkosh and had previously married Paul Daufen. They had three kids before Avis left home and moved to Milwaukee to live with her sister, Sylvia Trapp Rhodes. She married Dale Montes in June of the present year. He had lived over the Brite Spot Tavern where his father tended bar. At some point shortly before hsi murder, Avis had one date with John DiTrapani. The two of them went to Pine Lake with John Volpe and Dorothy Anderson. Avis further said she had dated Guy Caricillo and spent the night with Mike Mele.
Frank Fazio, brother of Louis Fazio, called Mrs. Catlin in the fall of 1955. In one conversation he said to her, “If my brother gets out, I will buy you a nice present.” She said she did not want a present.
There was a burglary at the Mattioli pharmacy (3501 West National Avenue) Sunday night, October 2, 1955 resulting in containing $1656 being stolen. Four men were arrested in connection with the burglary: Salvatore DiMaggio, 39, 1536 North Franklin Place; Lawrence J. Quartana, 46, 712 West Center Street; William P. Murray, 24, 1626 North Prospect Avenue; and Frank Alioto, 24, 408 North Jefferson Street (same residence that Harry DeAngelo claimed to live in — Frank would be Harry’s nephew). DiMaggio was employed at La Tosa Cafe, owned by his father.
John Triliegi was called in to the Milwaukee Police Department on October 3, 1955 for questioning (presumably on the pharmacy burglary). He was released the next day and not charged.
On October 21, 1955, Anthony Fazio telephoned Catlin on behalf of the Fazio and Mandella families and discharged Catlin, who told him they were making a mistake. Catlin would later be brough before the State bar Association and found guilty of unethical conduct; he was fined $1500 and his law license was suspended for six months.
An unidentified reporter for a Milwaukee newspaper wrote a memo on November 3, 1955: “While [Frank] Balistrieri has no police record, and is a clean character, he does mix with undesirable elements.”
On November 12, 1955, Pasquale Rosetti, 42, and Frank Allgood, 54, both of Milwaukee, broke into Flowers Drug Store in Wausau and stole a safe containing $1425.
Small-time hoodlum Jack Enea, 46, (1506 North Jackson Street) dropped his daughter Vivian off at school (driving his son Joseph’s car), and then met mason Walter “Blackie” Brocca, 41, of 1668 North VanBuren Street at a bakery at 1443 North VanBuren where Brocca was doing some remodeling. Enea and Brocca had previously operated Vickey’s Tavern at 1932 West St. Paul Avenue in 1951/1952. Enea left around 10:00am and Brocca left at 10:05. Brocca would later say he went to the corner of Highway 100 and Hampton Avenue to check on a truck that was at a service station.
Enea was found in a ditch on Plainview Road two miles northwest of Sussex, Waukesha County on Tuesday, November 29, 1955. Enea had been killed around 11:30am. He had seven bullets from a .38 in him (two lodged in his spine)
Brocca was initially held for questioning, and the clothes he wore the morning of Enea’s death were retrieved from his home to test for physical evidence. Waukesha County held Brocca for over 60 hours without charging him, until his attorney (Dominic Frinzi) insisted they either charge him or let him go. Brocca volunteered to take a lie detector test if his attorney consented. Frinzi did not allow it.
An unidentified FBI informant speculated that the killing was ordered by John Alioto at the request of Joseph Sciortino. Sciortino was Enea’s uncle, and owned a bakery on VanBuren Street adjacent to Alioto’s tavern. Allegedly, Enea burglarized the bakery and stole $1400. The informant also believed that a black Cadillac was involved and that at least two killers were used — one was identified as John Aiello and his brother Vito Aiello was also suspected.
Detective Inspector Rudolph Glaser of the Milwaukee Police Department believed that a black Cadillac picked Enea up from 1443 North VanBuren, where his Buick was parked. 1443 was previously (and possibly currently) the address of former boss Sam Ferrara’s tavern. He narrowed the car down to a 1948 or 1949 Cadillac after a witness informed him that the car had fin fenders.
Jack Enea’s funeral was on December 2, 1955. His death was handled by Guardalabene and Amato Funeral Home. Surviving him were his mother Mrs. Vita Enea; his wife Jennie; sons Joseph and Russell; daughter Vivian; brothers Casper and Michael; and sisters Mrs. Mary Braun, Mrs. Anna DiSalvo, Mrs. Cecilia Sciortino and Mrs. Frances Cefalu. Jack was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Milwaukee.
Nick B. Tarantino took part in the burglary of $812 from a safe at the Medical Arts Prescription Pharmacy (945 North 12th Street) on December 12, 1955.
Walter Brocca was arrested for questioning on December 24, 1955 concerning the recent spate of safe burglaries in Milwaukee. He was released on December 27.
Counterfeiter Sebastian “Sam” Vermiglio was deported in January 1956 for being an “unwanted alien”.
Louis J. Tarantino, 22, was arrested on March 13, 1956 for trying to extort $100 from businesswoman Mildred D. Griebel. He claimed to have found her sister’s ring and wanted money for it, but before Griebel met him, she had Detective Raymond Slowinski hide in the trunk of her car. Tarantino demanded $100 but said he did not have the ring on him. Slowinski then jumped out of the trunk. Tarantino, already on probation, was given 30 days in jail.
The Milwaukee FBI office received an anonymous letter on March 28, 1956 claiming that Sam Ferrara was the boss of the Mafia. The letter further identified the following men as being associated with Ferrara: John DiTrapani, Jack Enea, Frank LaGalbo, Charles Zarcone, Nick Fucarino, Mike Mineo, Joseph Gumina, Vito Aiello, August Maniaci, Santo Marino and Nick Albano.
John Vitrano, 40, and Lawrence Passafaro, 23, held up the South View Club (2401 West Mitchell) on April 18, 1956. Operator Martin J. Biller, 53, had $67 dollars taken from the till, with $31 going to Vitrano (Passafaro had the gun). The men were arrested a month later after a “confidential tip” — Vitrano was in town and Passafaro was on a farm in Laona, Forest County.
John “Blackie” Sullivan died following surgery at 5:30pm on Wednesday, April 18, 1956, at age 51. He had gone in for an emergency abdominal operation on April 17, and the next day suffered “surgical shock”. His reaction was intensified by the amount of scar tissue on his body from prior assassination attempts, particularly around his stomach.
Frank Balistrieri met with Milwaukee Phil and an unidentified Chinese man on May 1, 1956 at a barbecue restaurant. (Quite possibly the restaurant was the one owned by Phil’s wife.)
Sam Librizzi was arrested May 8, 1956 for selling fake soap, but was released.
On May 10, 1956, Giuseppe Balistrieri purchased his home at 7807 Santa Monica Boulevard from Aaron and Lucile Derzon. Lucile was a member of the Milwaukee chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.
Nick Tarantino, Louis J. Derango and Thomas Carlson burglarized Michael’s Tap (625 North 6th) on May 12, 1956 and made off with $825 from a safe, $50 in cash and a $124 check. When the case went to trial the following year (July 27), Judge Harvey Neelen declared a mistrial because he felt that the three defendants should be tried separately rather than together, and that Tarantino’s car was searched without a warrant or probable cause, making the evidence found inadmissible.
West Allis Police Officer Elmer Weishar entered Sergeant Liban’s office on the morning of Tuesday, May 29, 1956. Weishar said he had not been on friendly terms with his father-in-law Albert Siemanowski, due to differences in religion (Weishar was Lutheran) and the old man’s drinking. However, that morning, the father-in-law called the police station and told Weishar to call him back. He did, and was told to go to 68 and Greenfield Avenue. There Weishar met the old man, who had been drinking, and was told a story. The woman who lived upstairs, a Mrs. Olson, allegedly told Siemanowski that her mother used to work at the Boston Store and was dating a man who killed “an Italian tavernkeeper in Milwaukee”. Furthermore, two men, apparently posing as plainclothes detectives, told Olson’s mother that if she said anything to police they would kill her. Weishar and another officer intended to question Siemanowski further that evening, but found he had taken the day off of work to get drunk and was found asleep at his kitchen table. Police tried again two days later, and Siemanowski said again that the woman living upstairs, Donna Rae Olson, was saying that her mother was the last one to see John DiTrapani alive. Siemanowski did not know the mother’s name, but knew she was married to the brother of Sally, who operated the Hideaway Tavern (1423 South 68th Street). Donna Olson was eight months pregnant, did not work, and spent her time drinking vodka at the Hideaway and at Singers Tavern.
Charges against Doris Bronston, 27, of receiving stolen money from Jerome DiMaggio were dropped on June 5, 1956 due to lack of evidence. Her attorney, Dominic Frinzi, threatened to file suit against the police for false arrest.
The federal gambling trial against Frank Sansone was postponed on Monday, June 18, 1956 after a witness was said to be afraid of the courtroom. Dr. Raymond L. Rice told Federal Judge Kenneth P. Grubb that his patient, Milton Strauss, had “a pathological fear of coming into this courtroom.” Strauss, 44, lived at 301 East Carlisle Avenue in Whitefish Bay. Sansone’s attorney, Dominic Frinzi, asked Rice if Strauss was afraid of Sansone; Rice said no.
Miss Greta Cotier claims she began working at Club 166 (owned by Dominic Picciurro) as a prostitute in July 1956. That summer, Picciurro asked her to have sex with Sheriff Michael Lombardi to “keep the heat off” the club. Cotier says that Lombardi, who was friends with Picciurro, was having a drink at the club when Picciurro sent her with Lombardi to the Wind Blew Inn near Mequon, where they rented a room.
Salvatore DiMaggio burglarized Eugene’s Restaurant on September 3, 1956. When the case finally went to trial, he had Lula Beatrice Hoffman testify that he was in her apartment at the time of the burglary. However, the prosecution called a surprise witness — Ione Crooker — who testified and produced records that Hoffman was working in San Diego at the time, nowhere near Milwaukee. DiMaggio at this time switched his plea to guilty, and District Attorney McCauley said, “Sam DiMaggio has been a thorn in the side of the police department and my side. We have been put through great expense in trying this case… The defendant is suave and smooth and almost got by with this one. The only reason he hasn’t been in court for some is because he hasn’t been caught. I ask for the maximum sentence.” Judge Elmer Roller sentenced DiMaggio to 10 years in Waupun, and Hoffman was immediately arrested on perjury charges. Defense attorneys Mosher and Frinzi spoke to the court and stressed that they did not know their client and witness lied, nor did they have any part of it.
After getting only $67 dollars robbed from him earlier in the year, Martin Biller’s luck ran out on Friday, November 2, 1956. While at the wake of his mother, Marie Biller, at the Bruskiewitz Funeral Home, someone opened a storm window at the rear of his tavern and rolled a safe from the bedroom out the back door. The safe contained $1200 in cash and $5000 in stocks.
Balistrieri was cited by the police on November 20, 1956 for keeping the blinds closed at his tavern. He told the police he was sick of being picked on.
Approximately $30,000 of Alaska brown seal and mink furs were stolen on November 20, 1956 from Louis Eckstein Furriers, 736 North Jackson. The burglars had chipped through a brick wall connecting the fur shop to a vacant building. The store had a burglar alarm, but it was not tripped by the 14×23 inch hole. An informant claimed that Steve DeSalvo would know something about this theft, but authorities doubted the accuracy of this claim. DeSalvo was attending a wedding in the Italian Village at the time, and would have had to leave in the middle of the reception to unload the furs.
Some time in the mid- to late 1950s, Nichelle Nichols (later known as Uhura on Star Trek) worked as a dancer in one of Frank Balistrieri’s night clubs. She recalls Frank asking her to strip for the patrons, but he backed off when she said that her father would not approve. She speaks about a manager being named “Louie”, a driver named “Tony” and about Dominic Frinzi’s attraction to her. Frinzi allegedly bought her a large ring and an expensive coat, both of which she turned down. Nichols also recalls one stripper being shot on stage in Milwaukee and another being found in a trash can during her brief time there. While she does not outright say the mob was behind these killings, it is strongly implied.
The Wind Blew Inn was raided on January 18, 1957. Milwaukee man Joseph Latona (1846 North Warren Avenue) was cited for running a disorderly house.
Jerome Mandella, 38, who was previously convicted of killing Mike Farina, was paroled on Friday, February 15, 1957. Three days later, Dominic Lampone’s parole was authorized by Wilbur J. Schmidt from the state department of public welfare. Lampone had “made a good institutional adjustment and has been an excellent worker in recent years,” Schmidt said. “We feel that we have accomplished the maximum good that we can do for him in an institution.”
On the evening of Sunday, February 17, 1957, Frank P. Aliota, 25, Nick P. Tarantino, 27, and Salvatore DiMiaggio, 40, attempted to burglarize Kewaskum’s Rosenheimer department store. Police interrupted them while trying to crack a safe and gunfire ensued with the men fleeing. Aliota and DiMaggio escaped, but Tarantino was caught. DiMaggio’s car was found abandoned with burglar tools inside. Aliota turned himself in on February 19 with his attorney, Dominic Frinzi, saying, “My client is innocent.”
Nick Gentilli and another man were in Chattanooga on April 10, 1957 (and both before and after). He registered at the Read House Hotel in Room 1051, and was apparently there for gambling in a large craps game at the Ratten Hotel. However, a known gambler reported him to the police saying he was asking around about who had large sums of money, and the gambler thought Gentilli was planning a burglary. On April 12, five men with machine guns committed a robbery and took $100,000. If this was connected, it is unclear.
Gentilli was at the Calhoun Hotel in Anderson, South Carolina from May 6 to May 8, 1957 for business reasons.
Police Captain George Sprague submitted a letter to the license committee on Friday, June 27, 1957 requesting that the Villa Venice (formerly Club 26) not have its license renewed. Sprague wrote, “When arrests have been made at the Club 26, the police officers have been contacted by Frank Balistrieri instead of Rudolph Porchetta. In several of these arrest cases, Frank Balistrieri has been instrumental in getting them released without prosecution. Officers assigned to my office can testify to this.” Balistrieri admitted to his interest in the Downtowner, the Melody Room and the Roosevelt Bar. Melody and Roosevelt were both in the Roosevelt Hotel and thus covered by the same license. He denied being involved with Tower Tavern, the Tradewinds, or the Villa Venice. The Tower and Tradewinds were registered to Peter Balistrieri (with Joseph Dentice being vice president of the Tradewinds). Porchetta was the listed president of Villa Venice with Joseph Maniaci being the vice president. Porchetta’s attorney in the license matter was Dominic Frinzi.
Anthony Pipito, 22, was cited for disorderly conduct on Monday, July 1, 1957. He had been exercising a horse on a crowded Lake Michigan beach and the police claimed he had scared some bathers.
Of all the years John Alioto lived in Milwaukee, he was only ever confronted by police once: on July 2, 1957. He was given a mere $5 citation for failing to yield the right-of-way to a vehicle while he was leaving a parking spot. Aside from this and his violation years ago in New York, Alioto would remain clean. Constant surveillance from the FBI amounted to nothing.
Rudlph Porchetta sold the Villa Venice to Edward J. Wilson (2133 West Vliet Street) on July 20, 1957, effectively getting police off his and Frank Balistrieri’s backs.
On Wednesday, July 31, 1957, after a hearing from 2pm to 8pm, the common council voted 14-4 against revoking the tavern licenses allegedly connected to Frank Balistrieri, over the advice of Police Chief Howard O. Johnson. The assistant city attorney, F. Ryan Duffy, had called nine witnesses, while defense attorneys John Doyne and John Fleming called the four Balistrieris (Frank, Peter, Joseph and Benedetta). Deputy Inspectors Rudolph Miller and Herbert F. Schmidt testified that on November 5, 1954, Frank Balistrieri had asked the police permission to hold a teenagers’ jazz concert at the White Pub (the former name of the Tradewinds) on a Sunday. Police officer Hedwig Jessen testified that when the Pub came under suit for name infringement from a Chicago tavern, Frank was a defendant. Detective Oscar Greinke testified that Frank Balistrieri sometimes placed ads for the Tradewinds. Alderman Vincent A. Schmit called the city attorney to a halt and asked, “All we want to know is whether Frank Balistrieri had money invested in this business, if he made a profit or loss. It doesn’t help us to know that he paid bills for his brother or helped him. I want evidence of profit or loss. If you don’t have it, I’ll move to place these cases on file.” Duffy acknowledged that he had nothing concrete. Chief Johnson said after the decision, “This clarifies the situation. It clears up the rumors about who owns what and what we have now is two taverns for each brother. This never was a personal matter with me. I have known the Balistrieri family for years and have nothing against them.”
Murderer Louis Joseph Picciurro was paroled from Waupun on September 4, 1957 and went to live at 7807 North Santa Monica Boulevard in Whitefish Bay.
Jerome DiMaggio, a fugitive for fourteen weeks, was caught on September 10, 1957 at 2:45am in Gallup, New Mexico after failing to pay a $2.79 gasoline bill. With him was Milwaukee ex-convict Jerome Stroika.
Cono Librizzi was in trouble again on October 14, 1957 after patrolman Milas Nelson ticketed his car for being in a loading zone. Upon further inspection, the car turned out to not be registered to Librizzi at all, and he refused to tell police where he got it.
Anthony Pipito, 22, rolled his car two miles east of Richmond on County A on Sunday, October 20, 1957. The car landed right side up on the Henry Schneider farm and neither Pipito or his four passengers were hurt.
When Nick Tarantino was retried for his role in the 1956 Michael’s Tap burglary, he was found guilty on Tuesday, October 29, 1957 and sentenced by Washington County Judge Michael Sullivan to four years in the Wisconsin State Reformatory (but would only serve one). The key piece of evidence was testimony from Paul Gaeth of Mequon, who said he helped Tarantino bury the safe in his front yard. A few days prior, he pleaded guilty to the burglary in Kewaskum and was sentenced to prison. The terms would run concurrently.
On November 14, 1957, Frank Balistrieri likely attended the so-called Apalachin Meeting of the Mafia in Apalachin, New York. Figures representing every crime family in America were present. While his involvement is only speculative, he was registered at a local motel. Balistrieri likely used the Apalachin Summit to introduce himself to all the Bosses from across the United States.
Nick Gentilli was interviewed by Special Agent Laurence J. Giuntoli on November 19, 1957. At this time, Gentilli lived at 3328 North Oakland Avenue and was employed as a salesman for Scomar Building Products. He advised his wife Beverly worked at Field’s Women’s Apparel Shop. Why Gentilli was interviewed is unclear.
On November 26, 1957, Walter Brocca called someone in Rockford, Illinois.
By December 1957, based on information from an incarcerated informant, the FBI began to believe that the Mafia operated in Milwaukee “under direct orders of” Tony Accardo in Chicago. The informant also identified Balistrieri as Alioto’s “lieutenant” and said another member was August Maniaci. An informant (possibly the same one) spoke to the FBI again on January 10, calling John Alioto the “big wheel” of the Milwaukee “syndicate”.
John Alioto phoned someone in the area of San Francisco, California on December 25, 1957, causing the FBI to check if that number was connected to any crime in that state. While their search results are unclear, it would not be surprising to find out the number simply belonged to innocent relatives, especially since the call took place on Christmas.
John Triliegi was laid off by the Inwood Construction Company on January 3, 1958. Triliegi has been the labor foreman on a job expanding the Boston Store at the Bayshore Mall, but the work was now wrapping up.
John Triliegi was at the Sauna Finnish Steam Bath (933 South 6th Street) on January 4, 1958. He was in a private room upstairs when he apparently slipped and fell, apparently breaking his left arm, and knocking himself unconscious. He was brought to the Courtland Clinic. His doctor did find cuts and bruises, and some swelling, but his arm seemed to be unbroken.
A detective with the Milwaukee Police Department, while off-duty, tracked Ralph Capone on January 4, 1958 from the Ambassador Hotel to the Milwaukee Airport. While at the airport, Capone removed a package from a locker that the detective believed might contain dope.
Bruno and Verna Ramazini were to face divorce proceedings for the sixth time on Monday, January 6, 1958. Just prior to the hearing, the couple met in a conference room with their attorneys — John Craite for Verna and Dominic Frinzi for Bruno. They asked the court to remove the hearing from the calendar.
On January 15, 1958, an informant told the FBI that John Triliegi was not a member of the Milwaukee Mafia, but might have been a representative of the Chicago Outfit. He was said to be connected through Sam DeStefano. The informant further said that Triliegi had a reputation for “peddling dope” and that his supplier was a relative in Omaha. A second informant corroborated Triliegi’s connection to the Outfit. An informant (same one?) said that John Alioto had once tried to purchase Joseph Sciortino’s bakery, but Sciortino refused. Alioto put pressure on Jack Enea to pressure Sciortino (they were related), and Enea resisted. Alioto then ordered Enea killed. The triggerman was allegedly Vito Aiello, who disliked Enea anyway because Enea had allegedly been the murderer of Frank Aiello.
An informant told the FBI on January 31, 1958 that John Alioto was the leader of the Mafia, Frank Balistrieri was second-in-command, and August Maniaci was next in line after Balistrieri.
The FBI put Walter Brocca under surveillance on February 4, 1958. They observed him enter the Club Midnite at 1902 East North Avenue, which was operated by hoodlum August Maniaci. He was also seen entering the Tradewinds at 829 North 3rd Street, a night club operated by Frank Balistrieri. Surveillance on February 5 and 6 found him going to these locations all three days.
In February 1958, the city purchased property from John and Catherine Alioto located at 514 and 522 North Van Buren Street for a total of $25,000. These properties fell in the area where Milwaukee was implementing its Urban Redevelopment Plan. (Today, this spot is a parking lot.)
The FBI saw Walter Brocca visit the Club Midnite on February 17, 1958. This same day, Brocca approached the FBI in their car and asked why they were investigating him. They did not admit to investigating him (although they were) but asked him if he wanted to talk to them about himself; he obliged, sat in the car with Special Agent James E. McArdle and told them quite a bit. He told them he had a brother who moved to Glendale, California along with his parents. His parents still owned the home he lived in, so he paid no rent. He said he drives a green 1957 Oldsmobile 98 that he purchased from Bob Black Oldsmobile at 2639 North Prospect Avenue, but it is not registered in his name because he had judgments against him and did not want the car taken away. He had worked mason jobs on and off, and worked for Allis-Chambers during World War II. He was currently helping Frank Balistrieri build a charcoal grill at the Tradewinds. Brocca said he met Jerome DiMaggio and several others years ago at the Ogden Social Club and maintained a friendship with them. Brocca said he was acquainted with Felix Alderisio who owned the Hickory Way on 5th Street, and that Alderisio stays in the apartment above the Hickory Way when he is in town. Brocca said he had remodeled the building in September and October of 1957. He denied being involved in the murder of Jack Enea, whom he called a good friend, and also denied any role in the Holiday House burglary.
On February 19, Walter Brocca was seen entering the home of August Maniaci at 2121 North Newhall Street. And on February 20, he was laying brick at the Tradewinds constructing a barbecue pit.
Special Agent John Holtzman observed John Triliegi enter the Belmont Hotel on February 25, 1958 and talk about horse race betting. Special Agent Warren Kenney observed Triliegi at the Belmont the next day, conversing with a well-known gambler (name redacted).
An informant told the FBI on February 27, 1958 that John Triliegi kept in contact with Tony Biase and a man named Sam in Omaha, Nebraska by calling the Owl Smoke Shop there. Another informant had earlier told them that Triliegi still had loot from Reno stashed out west somewhere.
FBI agents watched Ralph Capone in Milwaukee from February 28 through March 5, 1958. He visited the Ambassador Hotel, Frenchy’s Restaurant (North Avenue), the Vogue Tavern (1414 Wisconsin), Timber Ridge Restaurant, James Gagliano Fruit and Produce Company and Fazio’s Restaurant on Jackson. At Fazio’s, he was seen talking with three unknown men — two left in a car with license H79855 (registered to Joseph Gagliano) and the third left in a car with license K82391 (registered to Bay View Sheet Metal Company). A follow-up conversation between Gagliano and the Milwaukee police had Gagliano saying this was the first time he met Capone and that he wants nothing to do with him, as he suspects that Capone would force him to pay tribute for the privilege of operating his own trucks.
During the vice trial of Waukesha Sheriff Michael Lombardi on Friday, March 7, 1958, the name of Walter Brocca came up. Richard Sey, a deputy, testified that Lombardi had once called him to the Tip Tap Lounge where he met Dominic Picciurro some time a few weeks after Jack Enea was murdered. Picciurro then gave Sey an envelope and told him to bring it Walter Brocca at Club 166 in the Town of Menomonee. Sey did so, but apparently very slowly, as Picciurro was already there when he arrived. What the envelope contained was not made known to Sey. Other officers testified that they were told not to investigate Club 166 despite its bad reputation.
John Alioto retired from his day job as labor foreman for the Milwaukee Bureau of Street Sanitation on April 6, 1958. He continued to work at Alioto’s Food market at 2500 North Booth Street.
Felix Alderisio sold the Hickory House restaurant (725 North 5th Street) on April 8, 1958.
John Triliegi began working as a labor foreman for Thomas H. Bentley and Son Company on April 29, 1958. He was involved in the construction of the Boys Technical High School (319 West Virginia Street).
The FBI investigated a connection between John Alioto and Anthony A. Musso, the boss of the Rockford, Illinois crime family in May 1958. Telephone records showed that Alioto had called Musso at his residence at 2117 North Court Street, Rockford. On May 1, a Rockford police officer advised the Feds that “in his twenty-three years with the department Musso has never been brought into the station but that Musso is a known local hoodlum but has never been caught in any specific offense.” The investigation led them to digging up rumors about Musso’s criminal activities and his connections to known gambler George Saladino. Few connections between Musso and Alioto were found. Completely by coincidence, on May 22, 1958, Tony Musso died of cancer at age 64. He was succeeded temporarily by Jasper Calo and then later by Joseph Zammuto.
August Maniaci filed for bankruptcy on May 26, 1958 in Milwaukee. His business, Club Midnight, was taken over by his father, Nunzio “Pops” Maniaci, who formerly operated the Canadian Club Cocktail Lounge on the southeast corner of Jefferson and Detroit.
Irving Pogrob (an agent of Pogrob’s Inc.) applied for a Class B liquor license in Milwaukee on June 16, 1958. Although Pogrob had no arrests in the past year, the police objected to his having a license due to his prior arrests.
Around July 2, 1958, Walter Brocca was seen at the Pizza House on North Avenue giving a check for $1000 to the man who owned the Driftwood Tavern at the corner of Humboldt and Capitol. The man then took the check to First Wisconsin Bank and they told him it was no good.
Ralph Capone entered the Milwaukee Police Department Detective Bureau on July 2, 1958 to complain to Captain Charles Nowakowski and Captain Adrian Mershon about being surveilled by the police. He told the detectives that his sole income comes from cigarette vending machines operated by his company, the Suburban Vending Company of Brookfield, Illinois. With Capone was Joseph Krasno, a Milwaukee gambler and tavern operator. Nowakowski advised Capone that if he did not want a “fatherly eye” on him, he should bypass Milwaukee when traveling between Mercer and Chicago.
John Triliegi was laid off on July 18, 1958 after falling into an excavated hole and tearing a ligament. Although he remained in good standing with the union, he would not be rehired on his current job.
Angelo Alioto, John’s son, became a founder of the National Italian Invitational Golf Tournament for Charities, believed to be the oldest ethnic golf tournament in the United States. First held in 1958, the annual tournament continues to raise money for charities and scholarships.
Two FBI special agents trailed Ralph Capone on July 31, 1958. Capone and two other men arrived at Mitchell Airport at 12:45pm on North Central Flight 570 from Ironwood, Michigan. At 1:00 they entered Yellow Cab 332 with their luggage. The three men dropped their luggage off at the Ambassador Hotel and then took the same cab to the Milwaukee County Stadium to catch a Milwaukee Braves game at 2:00pm.
On August 7, 1958, Patrolman Henry Czarnecki placed a bet on a horse race at John Seggiaro’s barbershop in Kenosha. He won the race, but then signaled Kenosha Police Chief Stanley Haukedahl and three other officers outside. Seggiaro was arrested for bookmaking.
As of August 1958, the new Alioto’s Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge was being constructed at the corner of Highway 100 and Burleigh Street. As of 2012, it remains there.
Steve DeSalvo was questioned on August 13, 1958 concerning the Louis Eckstein fur theft. He claimed to have no knowledge of the theft, and offered to speak with law enforcement any time.
The FBI believed on August 22, 1958 that Frank Balistrieri was being replaced as the “nominal head” of the Milwaukee hoodlums by Angelo G. Provinzano, president of the Dairy Lane Shops and owner of the Donut Shop at 6th and Wisconsin. Balistrieri had made too much publicity for himself, and Provinzano was a quieter individual — the key being to keep media and law enforcement off the scent of the organization. Outside of this mention in the FBI files, however, Provinzano seems to have been a clean character — was their report mistaken or did he cover his tracks that well?
Ralph Capone came to Milwaukee on September 1, 1958 and stayed at the Stratford-Arms Hotel on the corner of 15th and Wisconsin, registered as R. C. James, and stayed in room 218. He was accompanied by two people identified as “old family friends” and stayed one week. Around this time he started investing in plastic pouring caps for liquor bottles which were patented by someone in Milwaukee, possibly Angelo Fazio.
Anthony Pipito was convicted of robbery and statuatory rape on September 17, 1958. He was sentenced to five years in the state reformatory.
John Triliegi was employed as a labor foreman for the David Orr Company on September 30, 1958, and oversaw remodeling of the IRS offices in the federal building.
Louis Fratto of Des Moines called the Schroeder Hotel on September 30, 1958 and asked for Vic Tallerico in Room 632 or 1216. The call lasted only two minutes.
John Triliegi’s 1958 DeSoto was repossessed on October 1, 1958 by the Badger Auto Finance Company after he failed to make payments.
Tony Albano was arrested October 1, 1958 for disorderly conduct and fined $25.
Ralph Capone returned to Milwaukee the first week of October 1958 for the purpose of catching some World Series games and possibly some football. (The 1958 World Series ran October 1 through October 9 and was a rematch of the 1957 Series, with the New York Yankees beating the defending champion Milwaukee Braves in seven games for their eighteenth title, and their seventh in ten years.)
The David Orr Company fired Triliegi on October 14, 1958 after learning of his criminal past. They deemed it too big of a security risk to give a former thief access to the offices of the IRS.
On October 29, 1958, Special Agents Richard Thompson and Clark Lovrien interviewed a Milwaukee hoodlum about Walter Brocca. The hoodlum referred to Brocca as a “parasite” that hung around Frank Balistrieri. He said that Balistrieri was a “small man”, and liked to have eight or ten guys hanging around him at night while drinking coffee at the Belmont Hotel. Balistrieri invariably would pick up the tab for everyone. The hoodlum further said he (the hoodlum) suggested that Balistrieri rename the Tradewinds to something Irish to keep the “wops” out of the place. The new name was Gallagher’s.
Milwaukee Detective George Katsekas told the FBI in November 1958 that Sam Cefalu was operating a bookie joint near the corner of 11th and Juneau with a very select clientele.
Michael Albano incorporated Algre, Inc on November 5, 1958. Algre (a combination of Albano and Greco, his wife’s maiden name) was the corporation that owned both Angelo’s Pizza and Marco’s Restaurant at 16th and Wells.
Chicago hoodlum Leonard Patrick called Milwaukee on November 19, and December 3, 9, 17, and 22, 1958. (The name and number is redacted, but it is someone divorced.)
Gallagher’s opened on November 24, 1958. 25 local politicians were rumored to be guests, including a member of the city council who was later the city attorney.
John Triliegi was kicked out of the Construction Laborers’ Union on December 1, 1958 for failure to pay the last four months of membership dues.
Triliegi was evicted from his home (1635 North Farwell) on December 9, 1958 for failure to pay rent. He and his family moved to a nearby apartment at 1543 North Humboldt.
There was an examination on Tuesday, December 16, 1958 for a lawsuit involving Teamsters secretary Frank H. Ranney, cinder block firm operator Giuseppe Balistrieri (Frank and Peter’s father, 7807 North Santa Monica Boulevard), Jack Rizzo and August Chiaverotti. These men were doing business as Atomic Industries, Inc. The man suing them was George N. Schwerbel, a Brookfield appliance repairman who was a co-patent owner on a bubble gun. Schwerbel thought he had sold the manufacturing rights to a company called Monarch Supply (owned by August Chiavrotti and Bob Schaefer), but Rizzo testified “it could be possible” that he transferred the rights to Dynamic Industries (the forerunner of Atomic Industries) on July 1, 1957. Once the suit was filed, Ranney sold his part of the business. By December 22, an agreement was reached that Schwerbel would receive 10% of the net profit from each gun produced.
Ralph Capone came to Milwaukee on December 29, 1958 and registered at the Ambassador Hotel under the name R. C. James, along with his paramour. The FBI believed that Capone was visiting family acquaintances and was not involved in any illicit business.
Frank Stelloh was paroled from Waupun on January 5, 1959. This same night at midnight, Milwaukee Police noted that Steve DeSalvo, Anthony “Sheriff” Cefalu, Buster Balestrere and another man (Stelloh?) were hanging out at Fazio’s on 5th.
A meeting between several known gamblers and hoodlums took place at March 2, 1959 at 4:30pm at Gallagher’s Steak House. One such person there was August Maniaci. Maniaci and known gamblers were there again on March 4.
August Palmisano was the passenger of a hit and run vehicle on March 18, 1959. When pulled over at Milwaukee and Juneau, Palmisano was found to be drunk and carrying a 5″ banana knife.
The FBI received information on April 6, 1959 that Frank Balistrieri and Chicago hoodlum Marshall Caifano entered a new bar/restaurant and Caifano told the owner, “This new place with its remodeling must have cost you quite a bit of money.” The FBI was not sure if this was a threat or simply an observation.
Joe Bonanno flew into Milwaukee on May 1, 1959 and was met at the Milwaukee County Airport by representatives of the Grande Cheese Company, a company that Bonanno held a 10% interest in. Bonanno attended the two-day national UNICO (United National Italian Civic Organization) convention at the Pfister Hotel. Following the convention, Bonanno went to Fond du Lac where he toured the Grande Cheese Company and sat in on meetings.
Joseph Sciortino was served an eviction notice in May 1959 by Judge William F. Shaughnessy for his bakery at 536 North VanBuren Street (adjacent to John Alioto’s tavern). The bakery was condemned by a jury to make way for the lower third ward “slum clearance project”.
A Milwaukee police officer observed Americo DePietto visiting Louis Fazio at Fazio’s on 5th on May 11, 1959. Fazio and DePietto had met in Waupun prison, and DePietto was a known fence — he was believed to provide Fazio with stolen liquor. The officer asked DePietto if his parole officer gave him permission to travel (DePietto lived in Chicago) and he said that he did. FBI records would show DePietto occasionally making calls to Fazio’s restaurant, but beyond that he had little or nothing to do with Milwaukee (or Wisconsin in general).
Judge Frank Gregorski ordered Caffe Espresso (931 North Jackson) to “change its menu” on June 9, 1959. The coffee shop, owned and operated by Steve Gagliano, 42, was thought to be putting too much alcohol in their coffee. The flavor extract used consisted of about 2% alcohol, which was too strong according to a Prohibition-era law.
An informant told the FBI on June 12, 1959 that the top men in Milwaukee were Frank Balistrieri, John Alioto and Frank LaGalbo. Moving up in the hierarchy was Tony “Petrolle” Machi. This is the same informant who previously considered August Maniaci high-ranking — did Maniaci lose favor between 1958 and 1959?
Vito and John Aiello were allegedly using strong-arm tactics to push sales of Fox Head 400 beer in the Kenosha area on behalf of Johnny Rizzo in August 1959. (Fox Head Brewing Company was based in Waukesha and was alleged to be mob-owned for a few years, though I know nothing more about it.)
Louis Fratto of Des Moines called two Milwaukee numbers on September 2, 1959: GR6-6900 at 10:51am and collect from GL3-9413 at 12:10pm. The first number was Alioto’s Restaurant and Bar (3041 North Lovers Lane) and the second number was a pay phone at the same location.
Vincent Maniaci received his California chauffeur’s license on September 8, 1959. At the time, he was living in La Puente, California (east of Los Angeles).
Police stopped a car at the corner of 4th and Wells at 12:10am on September 29, 1959 after receiving a report from Kansas City. In the car were Steve DeSalvo, Albert Albana, John Picciurro and a man (name redacted) from Las Vegas.
Isadore Pogrob applied for a Class A liquor license on October 21, 1959. He swore to being single, 37, and a US citizen. Pogrob was taking over the premises at 608 North Third operated by Morris Forman and owned by Schlitz Reality. The police did not object.
Rocco Ditello, 35, was shot in the chest and died on Saturday, November 14, 1959 while hunting in the woods in Price County. He was found by his 14-year old son, Rocco Junior. Eight others were i nthe hunting party. Ditello was a member of Teamsters Local 200 and had gathered over 750 signatures from members who wanted a new local. Later rumor said the death was not an accident and was used to silence Ditello’s dissent, but this cannot be confirmed. Therumors further say that Ditello was Frank Ranney’s “arch-enemy” and that someone else came into some money after Ditello’s death, suggesting he was the shooter… though these claims seem not to have been brought to the FBI’s attention for 15 years.
On Monday, December 14, 1959, Joseph Angeli, 25, and Max Adonnis were in the Badger Paint and Hardware Store (251 West Grand Avenue in Wisconsin Rapids). While there, a $29.95 transistor radio was stolen. Police checked Angeli’s hotel room and found the radio in a drawer. Adonnis denied any involvement, but Angeli told Chief R. J. Exner he had purchased the radio from a boy in a red jacket for $5 who had been in the store at the same time after they left.
Murder of Marcia Jean Calligaro
Marcia Jean Calligaro had been fired from her job as a stripper at the Combo Club in Peoria on the evening of Friday, December 18, 1959 after having a fight with her boss. Marcia called her husband, Floyd Calligaro, 44, Saturday morning to come pick her up — the couple lived in Ironwood, Michigan. For a while (about four months) they had both lived at 926 North Jackson Street in Milwaukee. Her 6-year old daughter Rebecca gave her a crucifix on Saturday night and said, “Mommy, take this with you so nothing will happen to you.” Marcia then went out for the night with friends at the Slipper Bar in Peoria. Who was watching the daughter is unclear.
Calligaro, 22, a former stripper at one of Isadore Pogrob’s night clubs, was found dead on Sunday, December 20, 1959 beside a gravel road in Woodford County just northeast of Peoria, Illinois. Calligaro, also known as Christina Antrim, had been shot some time between 4:00am and 6:00am. She was wearing her brocade costume with jewelry and plastic slippers. Husband Floyd, who had married Marcia on July 29, was taken to Springfield on Monday, December 21, and given a lie detector test concerning the murder. He passed.
Also on December 20, 1959, tavern keeper Sam Guzzino, truck driver Ralph Galderio and appliance repairman Alexander Bendar of Chicago Heights attempted to burglarize an A&P at 1009 Marquette Avenue, South Milwaukee. They met at Bendar’s home at 5:00pm and discussed the crime, and then went to Milwaukee around 8:00pm in Guzzino’s new Cadillac. They took 41 north to Rawson Avenue, and Guzzino dropped the men off while Guzzino waited in the parked car. They took a long plank from the South Milwaukee Lumber Company next door, and used it to get on to the roof, where they made a hole to drop down inside. They had first unscrewed a vent, but determined the drop was too far, so they made a hole with a crowbar instead. When they got to the safe, they noticed it had been pried open recently and did not try to open it. They went back out. Patrolman James Briesemeister was doing his rounds when he saw Guzzino flash his lights and stopped to investigate. Guzzino was arrested and brought to the police station, where he confessed and was found to have $338 in cash. The other two ran from the lumber yard, with Briesemeister firing over their heads. The pair ran to East Ryan Road in Oak Creek, dropping the tools and a .45 on the way, before being picked up by a young man in a small foreign car. The man brought them to a service station at 10617 South 27th Street in Franklin. Bendar called the Radio Cab Company and was transferred to the Cudahy Cab Company. The dispatcher became suspicious and contacted the police. When Galderio was caught, he admitted his role and said Bendar was the ringleader and had “cased” the supermarket the previous October. Bendar denied knowing anything about the crime. The patrolman was paying close attention to supermarkets — this same A&P had been hit a week ago an had $5300 stolen. Briesemeister had only been on the job a few months, but had police work in his blood — his father, Frank J. Brisemeister, had been chief of police for 31 years.
On Tuesday, December 22, 1959, Guzzino and Galderio were released on $5000 bond. Their initial court date was set for January 4. Alexander Bendar turned out to be an alias for Stephen Kramer, a man who had jumped bail after being arrested for burglarizing two Connecticut post offices (Wilton and Orange) and stealing $21,000 three years earlier. He was handed over to federal authorities and brought to Brooklyn.
A Chicago informant later claimed that he witnessed Chicago Heights capo Frank LaPorte walk in to the Chicago Heights Police Department and use the telephone to call a State’s Attorney in Wisconsin. LaPorte allegedly offered the attorney $1500 to drop the charges against Guzzino. The informant did not know the attorney’s name and I do not know if Guzzino was released.
On Monday, January 4, 1960, Guzzino and Galderio were bound over for trial and their bail was increased to $10,000 by Judge Robert W. Hansen. Their attorney, Dominic Frinzi, filed a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Myron L. Gordon denied the writ, saying that he felt there was nothing unconstitutional about Hansen’s raising of the bail. “I am unable to say that constitutional rights were violated by the bail increase,” he said, making a writ a “drastic” and unnecessary action.
On Monday, January 4, 1960, Sheriff Gene Wolf said the police were looking for a man named Robert Benson in connection with the Calligaro murder. Benson, who might have used an alias, was the last known person to see Calligaro. They were observed in a Peoria tavern and witnesses claimed Benson had a “big roll of bills” with him. Wolf said that Benson was “acting a little bit crazy or a little bit drunk.”
The Murder of Isadore Pogrob
On the evening of Pogrob’s murder, January 5-6, 1960, Francis Stelloh was at Gallagher’s tavern with Frank Balistrieri, Vito “Buster” Balistreri, and Steve DiSalvo. Buster, sometimes identified as Frank’s cousin, was actually the brother-in-law of Frank’s brother Peter, and a relative of “Big Jim” Balistrere, the head of the Kansas City mob. Gallagher’s, at 829 North Third, would be within a block of where Pogrob was abducted. Detective Richard T. Polsen said a police informant was in the tavern and saw Frank Balistrieri take a phone call, come back to the table, and make a motion with his finger from ear to ear across the throat, indicating that someone was going to die. The men then allegedly grabbed their coats and left.
Izzy Pogrob, owner of the Brass Rail night club at 744 North Third Street, closed down the club and went over to the Belmont Hotel with two of his employees, Vito Aiello and Hugh Patton. He was picked up from the nearby Belmont Hotel coffee shop at 3:30am, blindfolded and driven to a drainage ditch in Mequon on Highway 167 between Swan Road and Farmdale Road, where his body was dumped over a small bridge after being shot repeatedly by a .45.
The exact time of the murder is hard to pinpoint, but a rough estimate can be ascertained. Blood was seen on the bridge as early as 6:45am by truck driver Peter Schmitt of Sheboygan, but he thought hunters had cleaned deer there. William Peterburg of Thiensville saw the blood at 7:40am but thought it was paint or the blood from a pheasant’s lungs. Roger Hilgendorf of Germantown saw the blood at 8:00am but thought it was paint.
Police were not aware of the incident until 12:45pm on January 7 (the next day), when Norman Schultz called the Mequon Police to report “large blood spots”. Chief Robert Milke arrived at 1:05pm, saw the blood spots and gore, and also several .45 cartridge casings, an Old Thompson blended whiskey bottle in a brown paper bag, a match book for Sentry Foods and an empty pack of Pall Mall cigarettes. Acting coroner Porter Blanchard arrived at 1:35pm and the Highway Department barricaded the area. Pogrob’s body was found under the bridge, with a white handkerchief tied over his eyes. Officer Gerald Budzinski took photographs, and Sgt. Charles W. Engel collected the five shell casings and took measurements, as well as taking samples of the blood and paint found on the scene. At 2:13pm, a Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper from the previous day was found in the water.
Officers Dennis L. Cherny and Griffin began to interview the neighbors. Walter Baehman and Fred Millar had not seen or heard anything unusual. Pogrob’s body was removed from the water by the Mequon Fire Department, and at 8:05pm was transferred to the Densow Funeral Home in Thiensville by Charles Densow where an autopsy was performed. The water was searched with a large magnet, but no additional evidence was found.
When Pogrob’s corpse was examined, he had only 93 cents and a brown envelope in his pockets, though police suspected he had $1500 in cash on him from the day’s sales. Nine bullet holes were found in the back of his head and neck. Irv Pogrob, Izzy’s brother, arrived and identified the body.
Milwaukee police interviewed Jose G. Baca, 28, on Friday, January 8, 1960 at 3:15am. Baca was the night attendant at the parking lot at 745 North Third Street, directly across the street from the Brass Rail. Baca said he saw Pogrob leave the Brass Rail on the night of the murder around 2:20am with another man that Baca called “the comedian” and they walked west on Wells, returned at about 3:20am, and then Pogrob drove his Cadillac north on Third.
At 10:00am on January 9, 1960, officers from the Mequon Police Department and Boy Scouts from Troop 666 made a step by step search of the crime scene. Chief Milke found a half pint bottle of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey, a bullet hole was found in a tree branch, and various pieces of paper were collected. The next day, skin diver William Wilson of Milwaukee combed the creek for two hours but found nothing of interest.
On January 9, the Mequon police received a call from Jim Martin on Lake Shore Road. Martin claimed that several outlets in the metropolitan Milwaukee area had purchased hijacked liquor. Martin claimed the businesses in question are hiding the expenses under their food accounts. While no businesses were named, Martin said he had “direct knowledge” of this and had connections in Chicago that informed him as well.
Chief Milke interviewed Joseph Guarniere (alias “the Viper”) on Saturday, January 9, 1960 at 2:45pm. Guarniere lived on Hwy 57 (Green Bay Road) “above the laundromat”. He denied ever meeting Isadore Pogrob, though he said his boss, a Mr. Kaiser, knows him well. With Guarniere’s permission, his 1959 Lincoln was searched and dirt samples from the floor were taken. Also found and collected were several “particles of an unknown blue substance” on the front floor boards. The car had no visible sign of violence. Guarniere said he was thinking of buying a tavern in Thiensville, and he was sick at the time of the murder and did not go to work that day, and only left the house to take his son (Thomas) to school (it is unclear if Thomas was Joseph or Wanda’s son, as she did have a son named Thomas Mirecki). At 9:30pm, Joseph and Wanda went to visit Charles and Rose Senger at 4433 North Oakland Avenue for a party with employees of the Pancake Kitchen. Joseph was sick again the next day and only left to bring Thomas to school. Milke believed that Guarniere was being evasive when asked where his car was at the time of the murder — Guarniere claimed it was not seen because he had driven to Delavan and then later parked it at his boss’s house on Santa Monica Boulevard. Milke believed this to be a lie. Guarniere did admit to hanging out at Gallaghers and the Doll House.
Mequon police interviewed Lois Hoven, of Steer N Stein, on January 9. She said that in the spring of 1958 she was called by Doc Carthouse of the Thiensville Bank and was told that $2000 was due to Nick DaQuisto. Al Hoven, Lois’ husband, was in the hospital, so she personally handled the payment to DaQuisto, the local distributor of juke boxes.
Richard Kotas called the Mequon Police Department on January 11, 1960. Kotas claimed he had been approached by Mike “Babe” Shaw to buy an inferior grade of whiskey. Shaw, according to Kotas, was on the “poor credit” list.
Milwaukee mayor Frank P. Zeidler contacted Senator Alexander Wiley on January 11 and asked to be put in contact with the FBI, because he did not believe that local law enforcement was handling the gang situation well. Zeidler told the agent that he believed Pogrob was killed for “squealing” on Louis Fazio. He also said they had three other unsolved gangland style killings: John “Blackie” Sullivan, Jack Enea and John DiTripani. An agent informed Zeidler that the FBI did not have jurisdiction in local cases. Director Hoover noted also that in his opinion Zeidler, a socialist, “had a hostile attitude” towards the FBI and was a “bigot”.
Pogrob’s 1959 Cadillac (license plate L78-595) was brought in to the state crime lab on January 11, 1960. The floor and panels were swept for debris, the car was checked for fingerprints and the ashtrays were emptied. The front right ashtray had a Tareyton cigarette butt with lipstick; the right center ashtray had two Tareytons with lipstick and two Newports with lipstick; the right rear ashtray had sixteen Chesterfields, one Kools and three L&Ms with lipstick. Apparently no one smoked on the left (driver’s) side of the vehicle. Due to the presence of lipstick on many of the cigarette butts, we might presume these were left over from dates. (For those who are curious, Tareytons were introduced in 1954 and are currently produced by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and can be found on the Internet and specialty tobacco stores, but are no longer sufficiently popular to be stocked in many stores or receive marketing and advertising from the manufacturer.)
Mequon police spent the entire day of January 12, 1960 quizzing Pogrob murder suspects. The questioning lead them to believe that Phil Valley, Nick DaQuisto, and Joseph “the Viper” Guarniere were all front men for Frank Balistrieri — “the kingpin in Milwaukee for juke boxes, liquor, girls, night clubs and sports events including gambling”. The three men also lived in Mequon. Also coming to their attention was Maynard Richards, a Menomonee Falls man who was a “small time hood and alleged trigger man” who had served time for several armed robberies, was a pimp for several prostitutes of multiple colors and also dealt in narcotics. Also, a man named Pat Judge was apparently trying to get prostitutes into Mequon. (I have been able to find nothing out about Richards, other than that a man by the same name would later be a brothel owner in Nevada, but to be the same man he would have to be rather old by then. There was a Patrick Judge from Delafield who was arrested in 1960 and was somehow dropped out of a hospital window, shattering the bones of his feet.)
The state crime lab received a bullet taken from the right arm of Marcia Callogaro on January 12, 1960. Although the bullet was said to have similarities to the bullets found in Pogrob, it was decided that the Callogero and Pogrob bullets were not fired from the same gun.
On January 13, 1960, John Rost and Ed Schneider reported to the Mequon police that the Anthony Haas farm was receiving semi trailer deliveries at night and station wagons were seen pulling up to haul away the goods. This was first observed by Haas’ neighbor, Walter Brueggeman. Allegedly, a station wagon was seen broken down loaded with cases of whiskey. (Haas had previously made the news in February 1956 when his father-in-law, Benjamin Levy, passed away. While the Haas family was at the funeral home, someone broke into their home and stole a 300-pound safe containing $9000 worth of government bonds, jewelry and cash. They speculated that it must have been somehow familiar with the home, as the safe was well-hidden in a closet under a stairway.)
Also on January 13, Milwaukee Captain Mershon informed Mequon that Phil Valley was the labor boss of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union and had strong hoodlum connections in Chicago, as well as being a close friend and business associate of Frank Balistrieri.
Still on January 13, Assistant District Attorney Francis Croak and Detective John Lavin went to Gary, Indiana to interview a 24-year old dancer who left Milwaukee the day after Pogrob’s murder. She denied knowing anything, saying she had gone to Gary to help a sick friend, but agreed to return to Milwaukee for further questioning. Her boyfriend, a 26-year old ex-convict, was also questioned.
Isadore Bogrob, 31, 2978 North 56th Street, was arraigned on Thursday, January 14, 1960 for concealing mortgaged property. Bogrob, cousin of Pogrob (who changed his name to avoid confusion), had co-signed for an oven, refrigerator and other items to be sent to the 24-year old dancer’s home. The items were now missing, and only $100 had been paid on them.
Joseph “the Viper” Guarniere was interviewed by the Mequon police yet again on Friday, January 15, 1960. He said he had not seen Sebastian Vermiglio since 1952, and had not seen Tony LaRosa since 1958 despite their plans to go into business providing Italian sausage for pizza houses. They had a falling out over how to split the profits. He said Vermiglio would be the last person to contact him due to “past hard feelings”, and he was happy that Vermiglio was arrested again. Vermiglio had told him the hijacked truck contained cabbage and gave him a bill of lading to verify that, leading to his capture. Guarniere said he knew Maynard Richards, but only as “Joe” Maynard from the Doll House, and never met Marvin Salzberg. Guarniere said he was acquainted with Charles Gaurdine, bartender at Camels Tap. He also knew Tom Carlson, August Maniaci, Frank Sansone, Santo Curro and frequented Frank Balistrieri’s establishments. He denied knowing Nick DaQuisto, but was familiar with the Fazio Brothers. Guarniere claimed that Lt. Joseph Schalla of the Milwaukee Police had “tipped him” that “he was to be worked over after release from prison”.
Vermiglio, who had been deported but came back, refused to talk to Milwaukee police on Friday, January 15, 1960 when asked about his whereabouts during the Isadore Pogrob murder. He was questioned by Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Francis Croak and Sgt. John Lavin. Vermiglio did admit that although his home was Detroit, and his wife and kids lived there, he had been spending much of his time in Milwaukee lately. He further admitted that he knew both John DiTrapani and Jack Enea and their murders were “too bad… They were nice guys.” He said he would not talk without his attorney, Sydney M. Eisenberg, being present.
On Monday morning, January 18, Milwaukee District Attorney William J. McCauley met with his staff and police to discuss a notebook that had been found in Vermiglio’s car at the time of his arrest. He then spoke to the press saying the book contained entries that were “obvious contacts of various people involved in the wholesale distribution of stolen meat, whiskey and cigarettes.” The book contained almost 200 names, including 50 from Milwaukee. There were also names from Mexico, South America, Italy and Canada. One entry was a Fond du Lac phone number connected to Joseph Bonanno (presumably John DiBella).
On January 21, 1960, Milwaukee’s Bureau of Identification identified an unknown thumb print on Pogrob’s rear view mirror. It belonged to his sister, Ruth Louise Pogrob, bringing the print inspection of the automobile to a close. Being notified of this, the State Crime Lab decided to re-attach the existing mirror rather than purchase a new one for $11.
Gib Suemnicht of Grafton came into the Mequon police station on January 25, 1960 and reported that drug store operator Larry Thiel (also of Grafton) was approached by two men from West Bend — a Tom Kimla and a Mr. Clark — and offered him cigarettes and whiskey “at ridiculously low prices, leading Thiel to believe the items were stolen. Chief Milke called the Washington County Sheriff the next day and was given two names: Thomas Kimla (751 South 7th Avenue) and Ellsworth H. “Jim” Clark (170 Edgeworth Lane), both of West Bend. The sheriff said they were “close friends” and “difficult to figure out”. The men were “not employed steadily” and “should be watched closely”.
Facing deportation back to Sicily again, Sam Vermiglio waived extradition to be brought from Detroit to Milwaukee on Thursday, January 28, 1960. He was wanted there for the minor crime of signing an autombile title with a false name. The Milwaukee police were hoping to use this to get more answers out of Vermiglio about the Pogrob murder, and Vermiglio was willing to talk in exchange for delaying his deportation to Palermo. After arriving in Milwaukee, he did everything in his power to shield his face from reporters’ cameras, but did answer a few questions from Captain Leo Woelfel. The answers were mostly “I dunno”, and he jokingly claimed his real name was Joe Doakes.
By Saturday, January 30, Vermiglio became more talkative — but about the wrong subjects. He told police that Italian beef is not tender, that prices in Palermo were too high, and that the Algerian people are a tough lot. He said the charge against him was a joke, and pointed out that using a fake name was not uncommon — Cary Grant’s real name was Archie Leach, for example. His attorney, Sydney M. Eisenberg, said that Vermiglio would not answer questions about the auto title but would submit to a lie detector test about the Pogrob murder. Eisenberg said that Vermiglio was not a hoodlum, and that, “I don’t know why he should be tested on every crime that was ever committed in Milwaukee.” Special assistant District Attorney Hugh O’Connell responded, “I never said that he was (a hoodlum). I don’t know how many swallows it takes to make a summer.”
Mequon Patrolman Dennis Cherny contacted the Grafton Chief of Police on January 31, 1960. The chief had spoken with Larry Thiel, and believed the man was scared of Kimla and Clark. An investigation revealed that the men had been spending a good deal of time at the Hwy 57 Drive-In, four miles north of Grafton. They had also allegedly sold some shoes to a small gas station in Saukville.
On February 2, 1960, the state crime lab compared the Pogrob bullets with those taken from the murder of beer distributor Joseph Bronge of Melrose Park, Illinois. No match was found. (Bronge’s murder was mob-connected, and he had testified to a federal grand jury about organized crime’s takeover of beer distribution. Some of his territory was taken over by Premium Beer Sales, which was connected to Tony Accardo.)
Francis Stelloh called his attorney, John Craite, at 2:30am on February 4, 1960 to report that the police were outside of his apartment at 7705 West Lincoln Avenue, West Allis. The police were there to question Stelloh about the murder of Isadore Pogrob. While outside, the police heard Stelloh make a phone call and repeat two phone numbers to the person on the phone. Those numbers belonged to Peter Balistrieri, owner of Gallagher’s at 829 West 3rd and Frank Balistrieri, owner of the Downtowner at 340 West Wells. When Stelloh opened the door for Craite, the police followed in behind him, and Stelloh was caught with divorcee Patricia Trapp. The police charged Stelloh with fornication after he admitted that he had relations with Trapp, although not on this particular date. He was sent back to prison on February 25 for this parole violation.
On February 5, 1960, at about 1:30am, Martha Artis, an entertainer working at the Lamp Post Bar located at 440 West Michigan Street, owned and operated by Charles Piscuine, was arrested by two officers for a violation of sec. 90-25. Miss Artis was an entertainer in the bar, her work consisting of singing songs and playing the piano for the patrons. After she had finished entertaining for the evening and was in the process of leaving the premises, she stopped at the bar at the request of a gentleman (an out-of-town district attorney) and was given a drink. The ordinance expressly prohibits female entertainers from standing or sitting at a bar and contains other prohibitions not involved here. At the time of the alleged violation, Charles Piscuine was not on the premises.
Vermiglio, 48, was given a lie detector test regarding three gangland murders on Friday, February 12, 1960. Although he provided some “deceptive answers”, according to Hugh O’Connell, he passed the five-hour test in Madison, provided some valuable information and was released. O’Connell also dropped the title fraud charge. O’Connell released a statement saying “Vermiglio is very anxious to return to Italy… Out of deference to the request of federal immigration authorities, we believe the best interests of justice will be served and taxpayers’ money saved if he is returned to Italy.” Vermiglio was soon deported on February 15, for a second time, to Italy.
Mequon Police Department, checking Vermiglio’s address book, found two numbers with a Thiensville Exchange: Richard Simpson, living at Route 4 Box 678, and Jack Sorcey, at Route 1, Box 75 (second house on Sunnyvale east of Viga, on the north side). Sorcey’s number was unlisted, but it is not a surprise that Vermiglio had it. (The only Richard Simpson I could find was later convicted for his involvement as an enforcer in a Madison brothel. I have no evidence to suggest this was the same man.)
The state crime lab received the following objects on February 19, 1960: a .45 Remington automatic pistol (serial number 1339014); a .45 Colt automatic pistol (serial number 236761); fourteen unfired .45 cartridges; a .45 fired cartridge case recovered from the rear bumper of a 1955 Ford; and one .38 fired cartridge recovered from the quarry in Waukesha County. The bullets were compared to those in the Pogrob case and there was no match. (The report is vague and I have no idea where these guns came from.)
Roughly February 24, 1960, Francis Stelloh was returned to Waupun Prison after Wilbur Schmidt revoked his parole because of the fornication charge against him. Stelloh was working as a manager for Gallagher’s Steak House.
The state crime lab received the blue paint flakes from Joseph Guarniere’s 1958 Chevrolet truck on April 8, 1960. The flakes did not match the blue particles found at the scene of the Pogrob murder.
On May 11, 1960, Judge Frank E. Gregorski dismissed the fornication charge against Francis Stelloh, agreeing with him that the arrest was illegal and unconstitutional. After an appeal, the decision was reversed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in September and Stelloh remained jailed.
Anthony Pipito was paroled from the state reformatory on June 17, 1960.
On June 20, 1960, the US Attorney’s office called the FBI to inform them that Vincent Maniaci was indebted to the government and requested an investigation to determine his financial ability. In September 1945, Maniaci had taken out a promissory note for $6005 at 4% interest from the First National Bank of Oakdale, California. The loan was used to buy a home at 14738 Gemini, La Puente. Maniaci defaulted on the loan, and then ended up owing the Veterans Affairs Office, who had guaranteed $2005 of the loan. As of 1960, Maniaci had not repaid his debt or even responded to letters informing him of it.
The state crime lab received two guns from the Milwaukee Police Department on July 26, 1960: one Colt .45 automatic pistol (serial number 1202884) with seven unfired cartridges; one German .32 Mauser pistol (serial number 34432). The Colt was compared with the Pogrob bullets and found not to match. Where these guns came from is unknown.
Vincent Maniaci (still living in California) called Special Agent Gilbert B. Stuckey on October 7, 1960, to inform him that his Montebello attorney (redacted) would be in contact with US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles in order to work out a solution to the government loan problems Maniaci was experiencing. On October 24, the US Attorney told the Bureau he considered the debt collectible and required no further investigation.
Mequon Patrolman Gerald Budzinski spoke to Ozaukee County jail inmate Robert H. Fagg on October 17, 1960. Fagg had told inmate Roderic Cooper that he overheard some information on the Isadore Pogrob murder from Bill Hobbs while staying at the Milwaukee County jail. Fagg started in Milwaukee County on July 4 and stayed until August 22. The last fifteen days, he shared a cell with Hobbs, who had been brought in for auto theft. Hobbs had been a night gas station attendant on the day of the murder, and recalled a few men from Chicago stopping for gas in a white Cadillac with Illinois plates. Fagg further claimed that while Hobbs was waiting to go to court, a well-known Chicago attorney called his wife at 6:00am and offered to put up $5000 bail for him. Neither Bill or his wife had called the attorney.
Frank Balistrieri bought his home at 3043 North Shepard Avenue on October 22, 1960 — the same house he would live in until his death. He bought it for $36,000 — $20,000 coming from insurance loans. The building was constructed in 1917, and is now a historic landmark known as the Edward H. Inbusch House.
St. Paul jukebox king Herman Paster, 57, was shot in the head while reading a newspaper in his den on Friday, October 28, 1960. Three shots fro ma .38 pistol came in through his window, the third being fatal. He died on the way to the hospital. St. Paul Police Chief William Proetz called the murder one that “reaches high into the circles of national crime.”
On November 2, 1960, the state crime lab received a .38 Smith and Wesson double action revolver (serial number C-43473), six cartridges, a brown leather holster and a cloth bag reading “State Bank of Milwaukee”. These items were taken from Thomas “Tommy Fish” Piscitello and the bullets were compared to those that killed Isadore Pogrob. They were not a match. (I cannot find any record of Piscitello having robbed a bank, which seems to be what the evidence suggests happened.)
On November 17, 1960, the state crime lab received a sealed pillbox containing a .38 bullet that had been fired at the murder scene of Willard Charles Woodring ad Richard B. Buchanan at Keokuk, Iowa on October 9, 1960. What made them think these cases might be connected is unclear, but the bullet was not a match. (The Iowa murders remain unsolved and may have had underworld connections — police discovered $45,000 in 50- and 100-dollar bills in the trunk of Woodring’s pink Cadillac. Woodring was a brothel operator.)
The phone service at the 56th Street Cigar Store at 2207 56th Street, Kenosha was disconnected on January 26, 1961. This was a hangout for Italian gamblers, including John Rizzo, William Covelli and Buster Balestrere. A check of Gallagher’s phone records showed that a pay phone in Gallagher’s had frequently called the Cigar Store.
An informant told the FBI on February 10, 1961 that Sam Cefalu and Sam Librizzi were operating floating poker and dice games on the East Side. They were also running a craps game at August Manaici’s tavern on Michigan Avenue for the purpose of raising money to bribe the State Parole Board to get two brothers (redacted) out of Waupun State Prison.
The FBI made a note of the cars that were outside Greco’s and the 56th Street Cigar Store on February 12, 1961 at 10:26pm. Included in the cars were one registered to Albert Albana and one (license Y57-670) registered to Hertz in Milwaukee. The rented car traced to Buster Balestrere and the rental clerk specifically recalled the transaction, as she found it unusual that his drivers license said “Buster”, which she thought would be a nickname.
A craps game over the Rite Spot Tavern at 1213 55th Street in Kenosha was held up by four men on February 18, 1961 and $4500 was taken. The organizers first suspected that it was the Syndicate because the game was in competition with John Rizzo’s game. They specifically suspected Steve DeSalvo and Buster balestrere of having hired men to do the job. But they were then told by the mob that the money would be returned to them if they could find the thieves before police did. Further, the incident brought more heat to gambling in Kenosha as a whole, so it would not have been in Balistrieri’s interest.
An informant told the FBI on March 4, 1961 that “the Antioch, Illinois gang” ha opened up a gambling operation in a tavern at the back of the Fosslands restaurant just over the state line. The place allegedly had craps games, cards and a horse race wire.
August Maniaci was interviewed by the FBI on March 9, 1961. He was asked if the Milwaukee hierarchy was John Alioto, Frank Balistrieri and then himself under Balistrieri. He nodded in agreement, and then said, “Remember, you said that.”
Thomas Machi, part owner of the Riviera Bar, was robbed at 7:30pm on March 13, 1931 by three unknown men but did not bother to file a complaint with the police. His brother Anthony (5553 West Andover Drive) reported it, and Thomas confirmed it, but would not file a complaint. The three men knocked Thomas down while he was entering his garage, asked him his name, told him to keep quiet, and then brought him back in the house. His pockets were rummaged through, and he was then tied to a chair. They searched the house and left with between $2500 and $3000, as well as a ring and gold cufflinks. Thomas said he would not file a complaint because he did not want publicity, but offered the police a whiskey bottle the men had drunk from in order to check for fingerprints.
The Kenosha Sheriff’s Department visited four gambling locations in Kenosha on March 18, 1961 and told them to stop their operations. These were the 56th Street Cigar Store, the Kenosha Athletic Club, the Rite Spot tavern and the Badger Hotel This caused friction with the city police department, who were allowing the games to run openly. Police Inspector (redacted) called Sheriff Floyd Hughes on March 20 and told him that the raids put the city police on the spot because Chief Haukedahl was vacationing in Miami Beach. Immediately following the phone call, Sheriff Hughes wrote a letter to Chief Haukedahl, which read in part: “I wish to inform you that I have been receiving altogether too many anonymous phone calls pertaining to gambling in the city of Kenosha. It is certainly becoming very annoying to myself and my family, and as you well know, ignorance of what is going on in the city of Kenosha is no excuse for the sheriff, who is the chief law enforcement officer of Kenosha County. I hope you will take care of this matter immediately so that it will not be necessary for me to take further action.”
An informant told the FBI on March 24, 1961 that the gambling operation run by the Antioch gang by Fosslands was the same as what was known as the Old Homestead. He said to get in, the password was “I am from Milwaukee.” He further advised that Buster Balestrere used Hertz rented cars when going to Kenosha, despite owning a new car himself, because he believed they were harder to trace. This would tend to disprove the claim that he was “broke”.
On approximately April 13, 1961, Frank Balistrieri went to the office of Police Chief Howard Johnson to complain that he had been referred to as a “hoodlum”. During the ensuing discussion, Johnson asked Balistrieri about Steve DeSalvo, and Frank told him that DeSalvo was the official buyer of meats and produce for Gallagher’s.
On early Saturday morning, April 15, 1961, a man with a stocking over his head cut the phone line outside of John Rizzo’s residence (1906 Emmertson Road in Racine) and then broke in. Rizzo was not home, but his wife was and was kept in the television room until her husband returned. Rizzo returned within an hour and the man was still inside the house. Rizzo had only $50 in his pockets, so the burglar took stole Rizzo’s green Lincoln and abandoned it on Highway 38 in Oak Creek across the street from St. John’s Lutheran Church. The muffler was busted and the glove compartment was broken into with a $20 pair of binoculars stolen. Rizzo had an arrangement with Racine Private Police, Inc to check on his home Friday nights and early Saturday mornings, and Mrs. Rizzo was supposed to removed a card from their window if something was wrong — allowing the private police to break in if necessary. The private police contacted the sheriff’s department, but it is unclear how much they were involved — Rizzo ended up finding the car himself. They did interview Mrs. Rizzo, who said she could not identify the man but noticed he smelled as though he had been drinking and he carried a gun. They also interviewed Rizzo, who said the man called him by name and knew that he ran the craps game in Kenosha on Friday nights. The man was after the craps money and when he found out that Rizzo only had his personal money on him, decided not to rob him. Rizzo did not know the man, but told the police he was very polite and spoke good English.
The first week of May, the Denver office of the FBI sent word to Milwaukee that as many as fifteen men were in Casper, Wyoming claiming to be salesmen, but carrying pistols and saying they were going to “organize” the vending machines in Casper. Some of the men, traced by their license plates, were found to be Milwaukee hoodlums. (Sadly, the names are all redacted.)
Kenosha Police Chief Stanley Haukedahl met with William Covelli and John Rizzo on May 5, 1961 to talk about their gambling operation at 2207 56th Street. Rizzo insisted that he had operated gambling at that location for fourteen years and Frank Balistrieri had nothing to do with the game and that the only one getting a cut was Covelli. He described the game as a “peanut operation” which had a total of $1000 to back it up. He acknowledged that Buster Balestrere had been there, but said this was because Balestrere was broke and they paid him $15 per night to work there. Haukedahl told them whether it was a local game or a bigger operation, they should still expect to be prosecuted.
City officials had a public meeting on Thursday, June 8, 1961 and spoke of the alleged non-existence of organized crime in Milwaukee. “There is no visible or invisible syndicate as far as we know,” said Police Chief Howard O. Johnson. He further said that Captain Harry Kuszewski was “doing an outstanding job in controlling vice in the community.” Mayor Maier said, “Milwaukee will not tolerate hoodlums or the Chicago-type of syndicate operation.” Little did they know that organized crime was about to go on the rise.
Chief Johnson received an anonymous letter on June 8 that read, “My husband loses most of his money betting on basketball games. Why do you let a bookmaker like Dick Milcarek operate?”
In the summer of 1961, Frank Balistrieri was having tax problems and called a friend to help him find a “good tax man”. The friend referred him to a man named Art, and the two met at the Fireside Restaurant in Wauwatosa some time in July.
Also in the summer of 1961, Frank LaGalbo tried to take over leadership of the Milwaukee family. Some informants believed he might try to kill John Alioto. LaGalbo was supported by his two enforcers, August Maniaci and John Aiello. This brought the heat down on Maniaci and LaGalbo (though apparently not Aielllo) and LaGalbo left for a couple weeks (probably to Peshtigo) while things cooled down. LaGalbo was powerful among the younger Italians and had strong connections to Felix Alderisio and Tony Accardo in Chicago. He had fallen out of favor with Milwaukee after the murder of John DiTrapani, which he likely either committed or ordered.
John Triliegi was interviewed on June 12, 1961 by Special Agents Clark Lovrien and Warren Kenney. He told them he now lived at 2935 North Maryland Avenue and was trying to support his wife and thirteen children (who lived away from him at 1517 North Humboldt). He had been employed by the Turner Construction Company for the past seven months at Marine Plaza, working as a labor foreman. When asked about unrecovered loot from his Reno heist, he said he did not know where a single quarter of it was, but always felt one of his partners had been holding out on everyone else. Triliegi said that people seem to think he knows where the money was, but if that was true, he would not be working construction jobs in below zero temperatures. He also would not have faced the hardships he had in the last few years.
On Wednesday, June 14, 1961, Ben Barwick (business agent of Bartenders Local 64) testified before a federal grand jury in Chicago investigating organized crime. He was asked to provide records and answer questions for more than an hour. At first, his answers were deemed unsatisfactory and he was asked to come back, but US Attorney James O’Brien dropped the petition two days later. Barwick’s attorney, Dominic Frinzi, told the press he did not know what questions were asked of Barwick.
On June 17, 1961 Sam Cefalu applied for a liquor license for Sammy’s 808 Club at 808 East Center. Cefalu had previously operated Sammy’s Place at 1758 North Water. The previous licensee for 808 Center was Stanley A. Ziol, 51, who lived at 810 East Center and apparently was a legitimate businessman. (Sam’s wife Rosalyn worked for the U.S. Postal Service.)
Detectives August Knueppel and Oscar Greinke interviewed Vito Aiello, 3038 North Maryland Avenue, on Wednesday, June 21, 1961 at 11:00pm. The interview took place at the Brass Rail. Aiello offered no new information on Izzy Pogrob’s death, but said that “on many occasions he warned Izzy about flashing his large roll of bills in public places”. Aiello said he believed the murder was a robbery.
Detective Knueppel interviewed Rosario Michael Olivo, 2020 North Holton Street, on June 21, 1961 at 11:45pm. The interview was at Henri’s Cocktail Lounge. Olivo believed that Pogrob was robbed, and was killed because he put up a fight. He said he was not around on the night of the murder, as he was with a woman at the Tower Hotel.
Detective Richard Polsen interviewed Salvatore “Sam” Ferrara, 63, on Thursday, June 22, 1961 at 2:30pm. The interview took place at the Central Liquor Mart (1125 North Jackson Street). Ferrara said he came to Milwaukee from Rock Island in 1914, and formerly operated the Peacock Bar (1447 North VanBuren) for 28 years. He said John DiTrapani was his godson, but he had nothing to add to the investigation.
Detectives James Behrendt and Richard Polsen interviewed Nick Fucarino, 74, 2622 North 60th Street, on Tuesday, June 27, 1961 at 1:00pm. The interview took place at the East Town Liquor Store (1241 East Brady). Fucarino said he considered John DiTrapani “a good friend” but did not know anything about his murder.
Detectives August Knueppel and Oscar Greinke questioned Sam DaQuisto, 45, on Tuesday, July 11, 1961 at 11:15pm. DaQuisto was living with his mother and sister at 5075 South 27th Street and was working at International Harvester, where he had been the past 25 years. He had no information to offer.
Detectives August Knueppel and Oscar Greinke questioned Jerome Joseph DiMaggio, 5406 North Third Street, on Thursday, July 13, 1961 at 11:00pm. DiMaggio was tending bar at Henri’s (730 North 5th Street). He said in regards to the Enea, Pogrob and DiTrapani murders, he “was happy to hear that [the police] department was still working on these cases, because he would not like something like that to happen to his family.” He had no information to offer.
Detective August Knueppel questioned Rudolph Porchetta, 46, on Monday, July 17, 1961 at 10:30pm at the Downtowner Lounge. Porchetta said he was married, had two children, and was employed by Frank Balistrieri for the past 8 or 9 years as a bartender, but had no idea who killed Enea, Pogrob or DiTrapani.
Detective August Knueppel questioned August Maniaci, 52, on Wednesday, July 19, 1961 at 9:45am. Maniaci was employed by John Aiello at the Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders Company (1440 West Vliet Street). Maniaci had nothing to offer on the Enea, Pogrob and DiTrapani murders. At the same time, Knueppel spoke with John Aiello, 46, 2761 South Herman Street. Aiello was a partner in Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders. He said he no longer went to taverns as he had developed a kidney ailment and had to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester twice in the past year.
Steve DeSalvo was seen outside of Gallagher’s on July 19 with a man driving a 1961 Oldsmobile convertible registered to McHenry County Candy and Tobacco Company of Fox River Grove, Illinois. This company was owned by Joseph “Black Joe” Amato, the Chicago Outfit’s man in McHenry County, Illinois.
An informant told the FBI on July 20, 1961 that the Old Homestead was no longer a gambling location, but was now used as a parking lot for gamblers. They could be picked up from thee and shuttled to the new gambling operation in Grayslake, Illinois. This protected both the gamblers and the operation from detection, as the new spot would appear vacant from outside.
Detective August Knueppel questioned Frank Balistrieri, 43, at Gallaghers on Friday, July 21, 1961 at 10:30pm. Balistrieri said that although he had known Enea, Pogrob and DiTrapani personally, he knew no reason they would be killed. He did say that “if he ever heard any information which would be beneficial to our investigations, he could contact [the Police] Department immediately.”
Detective Knueppel questioned Harold “Buzz” Wagner, 47, on Friday, July 21, 1961 at 11:30pm. Buzz “stated that during the time he worked for Pogrob he never had a more generous employer.” However, “Izzy was a shrewd businessman and no doubt some people hated his guts because of his success.”
Detectives August Knueppel and Oscar Greinke questioned Steve DeSalvo, 43, on Monday, July 24, 1961 at 10:20pm. He was living at 2605 East Holmes Avenue in Cudahy. DeSalvo said he knew nothing about the Enea, Pogrob and DiTrapani murders and did not know the men very well. DeSalvo further said that he did “not stick his nose in other people’s business and he does not want people interfering with his.”
Detectives Knueppel and Greinke questioned Buster Vito Balestrere, 42, on Monday, July 24, 1961 at 10:45pm. Buster was living at 1634 North Jackson and working for tavern owner Frank Balistrieri. Balestrere said he knew nothing about the Enea, Pogrob and DiTrapani murders and was “not interested in what other people do”; “he minds his own business and wants other people not to bother him.”
Police questioned Walter Brocca, 46, on Wednesday, July 26, 1961 at 12:15am regarding what he might know in the Enea, Progrob and DiTrapani murders. Brocca said he had returned from California six weeks ago, had operated two pizza restaurants and went bankrupt in both of them. He said he was in California when Pogrob was killed. Brocca said at the time of the Enea and DiTrapani murders, he was called in for questioning and had learned nothing new.
Pasquale Migliaccio died on July 27, 1961 at age 74. He had been a capodecina and was replaced by Frank Balistrieri.
Detectives James Behrendt and Richard Polsen interviewed John Alioto, 74, at his home (2500 North Booth Street) on Saturday, July 29, 1961 at 1:00pm. Alioto said that in relationship to John DiTrapani’s murder, he had made a statement to Lt. Schalla at the time and has learned nothing new since then.
In August 1961, rumors started floating around that Sebastian Vermiglio was back in the United States, or possibly Mexico or Canada. He had disappeared from Palermo, Sicily in July.
The Milwaukee office of the FBI received another anonymous letter postmarked August 12, 1961. The letter pointed the finger at Sam Ferrara for the murder of Pasquale Caruso. It further advised that Ferrara had sent two men (names redacted) to Friendship, Wisconsin to murder a neighbor of mobster Jim DeGeorge (alias Vincenzo DiGiorgio). This hit was allegedly to get in the good graces of the Chicago syndicate. The letter also said that someone (redacted) in Milwaukee was called to Chicago and Tony Accardo told this person that Ferrara was going to take a cut of all wire service gambling. The person agreed and they made a fortune. The letter identified John Pernice as a Mafia member, and said that Vito Aiello had fired several shots at Blackie Sullivan with a shotgun from a parked car. The letter further said, “The Mafia leaders in Milwaukee are, along with those mentioned, Joe Caminiti, who is a labor leader. Sometimes his offices are used for meetings.” Zarcone’s butcher shop on Jackson was also identified as a hangout.
On August 29, 1961, a sergeant of the Vice Squad informed Special Agent Richard Thompson that in recent times, gambling pool tickets are sometimes homemade, being produced on a mimeograph. The sergeant said, to his knowledge, such tickets were not printed in Wisconsin, but came from either the Cerin Press in Minneapolis, the Capitol Printing Company (619 West 33rd Street, Chicago) or the Arcadia Printing Company (242 North Clark Street, Chicago). The Milwaukee Office contacted the Chicago Office and asked them to monitor any Wisconsin license plates seen at the two printing companies — driving such tickets over state lines would be a violation of interstate gambling laws.
On August 30, 1961, an informant told the FBI that Sam Librizzi and Sam Cefalu were handling football and basketball pools from a “headquarters” at 2752 North Holton. The same informant reported on September 16 that no football or basketball pools had been run by Librizzi or Cefalu in the past week due to too much “heat” from federal authorities. More tickets were expected to come up from Chicago on September 19, but there was no guarantee anyone would want to handle them. On September 24, the informant said no football or basketball was being handled, but horse races were booked.
The Young Men’s Athletic Club (616 57th Street) was raided in Kenosha at 1:15am, September 9, 1961. Six men were arrested for participating in a craps game. Among those arrested were Clifford Hill, 58, of Park City; James R. Siepler, 26; Joseph Mazzei, 50; Emil Conforti, 46; and Sabri Sulieman, 60, who had $262 in his pocket. Ten other men were released. Harry Siegel, the game operator, had $3008 in his possession, and paid $25 for each of the players to make bond, and then turned over $2500 to his attorney, Maurice Schmerling. Court dates were set for September 14. The men were fined $40 each, and the court ordered the destruction of a green felt-covered table, a croupier’s rake, poker chips, playing cards, dice and several aprons. Siegel was fined $400. (Hill had served time for burglary, and was known to be a card dealer who formerly worked at the Vernon Hills Country Club.
An informant told the FBI on September 24, 1961 that Milwaukee had three cliques, because many were not happy with Frank Balistrieri’s leadership. One clique had Balistrieri, Buster Balistrere, Steve DeSalvo and John Rizzo. Another had Mike Albano, Joe Gagliano, Walter Brocca, August Maniaci and Harry D’Angelo. The third was Frank LaGalbo and unknown others. (LaGalbo, we know, had been forced out of the Milwaukee Family by this time.)
Someone from Kenosha brought 300 football pool tickets to Trio’s on Brady, the French Quarter and the Lamp Post Bar on September 26, 1961.
On September 29, the informant said that football tickets were picked up from a printing firm in the Great Lakes Building in Chicago on September 26 and were sold through the 808 Club and from Cefalu’s house. On October 3, the informant said Cefal uand Librizzi had taken in $2000 from tickets on September 30, and he expected them to send a runner to Chicago to pick up tickets for the following weekend. On October 7, the informant said the tickets were moved to the homes of two Cefalu brothers (presumably in order to throw off the authorities).
October 7, 1961 — Special Agents John Holtzman and Albert Kneckrehm were at Gallagher’s Steak House at 829 North Third Street, and they witnessed Balistrieri come in around 9:30pm. He immediately pulled up a chair to a table with two middle-aged men, a middle-aged woman and a younger woman (none of whom were identified by the agents). He talked with them a short while, then went and talked to a waitress, and finally “busied himself” around the restaurant for 25 minutes. He conversed with the table a bit more and then went to go answer a telephone call. About 15 minutes later, they were joined by yet another middle-aged man. From about 11:00 to 11:30, Balistrieri spoke with one of the men while the others had left the table. At 1:30am, everyone left except Balistrieri. They departed in three cars — a light-colored 1956 Chevrolet coupe, a white 1962 Chevrolet Impala and a 1961 Chevrolet. These people were somehow connected to Frank’s tax problems, and ultimately this investigation led to a bribery charge. (One of the men was an IRS employee.)
An informant told the FBI on October 10, 1961 that Sam Cefalu and Sam Librizzi had stopped selling football tickets because they were visited by a Sergeant (redacted) from the Milwaukee Vice Squad and told that “heat” was on from federal authorities. The informant believed the men would likely pick up the tickets anyway and allow someone else to handle them. He thought they might get handed out that evening at Trio’s Pizzeria or the French Quarter tavern, both in the 1000 block of East Brady Street. (Surveillance that evening from 10:00pm to 2:10am by Special Agent Richard Thompson saw no such activity at either location. A white over black Rambler station wagon did leave Trio’s at 2:18am, with a license plate tracing to a man in Kenosha. It was seen heading south on Milwaukee Street.)
Around 8:30pm on October 10, the FBI surveilled someone connected to the Tropic Club in Kenosha.
A Mequon Police report states that on Wednesday, October 11, 1961 at 11:30am there was a conversation with a Yellow Cab driver in Milwaukee, who drove cab number 315. The driver said that Isadore Pogrob was killed after he received four warnings to pay up to the Syndicate for hijacked whiskey he received from them. Pogrob went gambling to get the money, but instead lost a large sum, so the Syndicate “hired the Mafia” to kill him (although how they differ is unclear).
On October 12, an informant told the FBI that Trio’s and the French Quarter did receive their football tickets around 2:00am on October 11 as planned. He further said that the owners were told not to accept any tickets by the Vice Squad, as the FBI was in the vicinity surveilling them.
In mid-October 1961, Steve DeSalvo and Buster Balestrere moved their floating gambling house from 1612 North VanBuren to an unknown location. They started using two locations as meeting places: the Rafters Motel (7221 South 27th Street), which was somehow connected to an Italian-American group in Chicago, and the Riverside Auto Wrecking Company (420 South 3rd Street). The Rafters was owned by Frank Dimiceli and was rumored to be a center for prostitution.
Frank Balistrieri and Buster Balestrere were in Kansas City on October 20-21, 1961 to attend the wedding of John Molle’s kid. Frank stayed at the Park East Hotel. The FBI spoke with Kansas City informants Thomas “Highway” Simone and Danny Lawson, but were not able to learn much more. Balestrere was believed to be staying with his mother in the North End and had ties to Kansas City going back to the 1940s when he was a killer for Charles Binaggio.
Louis J. Tarantino, 27, was arrested on October 30, 1961 for possession of obscene photos. He had taken nude photos of an 18-year old girl and then later threatened to send them to her parents and police if she did not pay $500 for the negatives. The Judge Steffes sentenced him to five years in state prison.
Beginning on November 6, 1961, and continuing until mid-December, the Zion, Illinois Police Department ran surveillance on the Misty Lounge at 1038 North Sheridan Road, Winthrop Harbor. They took note of known gamblers they saw. Included on their list were: Peter Zocchi (owner of the Tip-Z-Top Tavern in Kenosha), Peter Barca (owner of the Flamingo Lounge in Kenosha), Armand Scornavacco (restaurant and tavern owner of Highland Park) and Paul Clifford LaCombe (owner of the Side Line Tap in Kenosha). A check of phone records also revealed that the Misty Lounge regularly called Raymond James McMahon’s Telephone News System (West VanBuren Street, Chicago), which had a recording giving gamblers horse race results. They also called Bill Kaplan’s Sports News (which he operated with Chicago mobster Donald Angelini).
Around November 7, 1961, Chicago Heights LCN member John Roberts (aka John Roberti) died. Surveillance of the West End Funeral Home in Chicago Heights observed a car with license plate L61773, registered to Chico’s Bar-B-Q. Presumably, this was Frank LaGalbo’s car.
An informant told the FBI on November 12, 1961 that John Alioto was the boss of the Milwaukee family, but three men underneath him held equal power — Sam Ferrara, Sam DiMaggio and a third, redacted man.
Verna Ramazini filed for divorce against her husband, Bruno, for the seventh time on Thursday, November 15, 1961. She was seeking alimony and support for their two children.
Louis John Tarantino was convicted of possessing lewd, obscene and indecent pictures on November 16, 1961. Judge Herbert J. Steffes sentenced Tarantino to five years in WCI.
An informant told the FBI on November 22, 1961 that Sam Librizzi and Sam Cefalu went broke after puttign a bet out on their football pool. Cefalu had to make a trip to Chicago and get a $3000 loan from a bookie there in order to continue operating. (This bookie may be connected to Felix Alderisio.)
Milwaukee police, on December 5, 1961, arrested several employees of Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders (1440 West Vliet) and seized their records after it was discovered several of their home improvement contracts were supported by forged mortgage notes. The forged mortgages totaled at least $250,000. Vice president August Maniaci, with the help of Vincent Mercurio, bribed District Attorney William J. McCauley $5500 to have the case thrown out. Also found in Maniaci’s company records were the address and phone number of a Milwaukee police captain who had received thousands of dollars in siding work done for free. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Also arrested were Joseph Angeli, salesman; Raymond Hayes, salesman; Alex Sussman, salesman; John Aiello, salesman; Kenneth J. Weiss, salesman. Arrested from Union Improvements Inc were Henry Nechy, vice president, and Robert Riedinger, president.
An informant told the FBI on December 11, 1961 that Sam Librizzi and Sam Cefalu had gone broke operating their gambling of basketball, football and horse races again. They asked (redacted) to contact Felix Alderisio. Alderisio was able to get them more money to stay in business, and the pair went to Chicago the morning of December 11 as they needed the funding badly.
An informant told the FBI on December 14 that besides the 808 Club, Sam Librizzi operating a booking operation from the back room of Badger Home Insulation Company (814 East Center).
On December 27, 1961, John Alioto attended a civic testimony honoring Dr. Vito Guardalabene’s recovery from a stroke. The social event, honoring the son and grandson of the Guardalabenes, was attended by public officials, labor leaders, doctors and prominent citizens. It would also serve as the official induction of Frank Balistrieri as the new boss of the Milwaukee LCN Family. City officials there included City Attorney John J. Fleming, Clerk of Courts Raymond W. Fleming, Sheriff George J. Witkowski, Deputy District Attorney Aladdin DeBrozzo, County Supervisor Joseph Greco, and Chairman of the Civil Service Commission Angelo Provenzano.